Home office unlawfully axed recommendations, court rules

By Ashitha NageshCommunity affairs correspondent • André Rhoden-PaulBBC News

Getty Images Royal Courts of JusticeGetty Images

The Home Office unlawfully dropped recommendations made by an independent review of the Windrush scandal, the High Court has ruled.

The Williams Review’s report, published in 2020, made 30 recommendations which were all adopted by the home secretary at the time, Priti Patel.

But in January 2023, the Home Office – then led by Suella Braverman – said it was dropping three of them.

On Wednesday the High Court ruled the government acted unlawfully when it dropped two of the review’s recommendations – to establish a migrants’ commissioner role and to increase the powers of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration.

A legal challenge brought by Trevor Donald, a victim of the Windrush scandal, argued this was discriminatory and went against the public interest.

The Home Office said it was carefully considering the judgement and will respond in due course.

PA Media  Jamaican immigrants welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship HMT Empire Windrush landed them at TilburyPA Media

The first of a wave of immigrants from Jamaica arrived in 1948 on the former troopship Empire Windrush

The Windrush scandal emerged in 2018 when Commonwealth citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, were wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation despite having the right to live and work in the UK.

It was discovered that the Home Office had kept no records of those granted permission to stay and had not issued the paperwork they needed to confirm their status.

Many lost homes and jobs and were denied access to healthcare and benefits.

Solicitor Wendy Williams published her Windrush Lessons Learned Review in 2020 and all 30 recommendations she made were originally accepted by Ms Patel.

In a judgement published on Wednesday, High Court judge Mrs Justice Heather Williams found the Home Office’s subsequent decision to drop two of the recommendations – to create a dedicated migrants’ commissioner and to give the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICBI) new powers – had a “disproportionately prejudicial effect upon Windrush victims“ and indirectly discriminated against them.

The judge also said it was unlawful and “conspicuously unfair” for the ICBI recommendation to be shelved without consulting the Windrush community and Ms Williams.

The scrapping of a third recommendation – to hold “reconciliation events” with those affected by the scandal – was not unlawful, the court ruled.

Mr Donald, who arrived in the UK from Jamaica in 1967 and lived in Britain for the next 43 years, was refused entry when he attempted to return to the UK after a visit to the Caribbean in 2010.

He was eventually allowed to re-enter the UK after the Windrush scandal emerged in 2018 and was granted British citizenship in 2022.

In her judgement, Mrs Justice Williams noted Mr Donald “missed critical moments in the lives of his children and lost his council flat and most of his possessions”.

A further hearing is set to consider any damages due to him.

Mr Donald’s solicitor Connie Sozi said the judgement “gives the government, yet again, an opportunity to do the right thing and properly ensure that it has learned lessons from the past”.

She said the Home Office could “show its commitment” by implementing the three recommendations and suggested an inquiry could be needed into the scandal.

“The ease at which the government could renege suggests a stronger form of accountability is needed into the Windrush scandal,” she said.

So far, the government has paid out £88.6m in compensation to people affected and more than 17,100 people have been given documentation confirming their status or British citizenship.

It says its compensation scheme engagement team has regular dialogue with Windrush communities who provide feedback and scrutiny.

Black Equity Organisation (BEO), who took part in the case, welcomed the court’s decision.

Chief executive Timi Okuwa said: “We are especially pleased that Mrs Justice Williams recognised the discrimination of the Windrush generation in her judgement.

“We are committed to working with the next government to ensure that all the Williams Report recommendations are fully implemented. The work isn’t done.”

Unison trade union general secretary Christina McAnea, who was an intervener in the court proceedings, said: “Rather than learning the lessons, the government’s response has been dire.

“Ministers must treat all people with dignity and respect, and act with integrity.”

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