“Systematic failure”: new report from the Bail Observation Project

News

The Bail Observation Project have released a new report, based on 12 law students watching 55 bail hearings at Taylor House over six months. The majority of the hearings were conducted by video-link, meaning the person was in a room at the detention centre, while the judge, interpreter, lawyer (if there was one), friends and supporters of the individual were in the hearing room in London.

Immigration bail is a form of release from immigration detention. Read more about detention and bail in the Right to Remain Toolkit:

The observations found a variety of judicial attitudes (“some judges seemed pro-detention and some seemed pro-granting bail”). The observers witnessed problems with interpretation, with many hearings being withdrawn because an interpreter was not present, or hearings proceeded with difficulty.

Unsurprisingly, given the withdrawal of Section 4 bail accommodation (which itself had many issues), the report notes there were multiple issues around accommodation. The students observed several hearings where bail would have been granted if an address had been provided.

Diagrams in the form of pillars representing summary of data on bail hearings

Among the many points of interest in the report, is this observation that questions why the Home Office even detains (and maintains the detention of) people at all:

“despite Immigration Detention existing in order to facilitate removal, the HOPO [Home Office Presenting Officer] only put forward the argument that removal was imminent in 10 of 55 hearings”

The report also looks at conditions of release, including financial conditions.

From the Right to Remain Toolkit:

A “financial condition supporter”, previously called a “surety”, is someone who puts up a sum of money guaranteeing the person applying for bail will keep to the bail conditions. If the detainee doesn’t keep to the conditions, the supporter is liable to lose the money they have put up. This role is called a “cautioner” in Scotland.

The reports points out that while the guidance on granting bail says that “Judges must be cautious about imposing a financial condition simply because one is offered. A judge must only impose the minimum bail conditions necessary and do no more because bail conditions are themselves a restriction of liberty”, financial condition supporters were required in 69% of the observed hearings.

On providing a bail address, while the guidance states that risk of absconding is likely to be low if a stable address if provided (and risk of absconding is one of the issues the judge will consider), an address isn’t mandatory. However the observers found that judges did not grant bail without a bail address being provided.

The report provides a very interesting “architectural perspective” on the use of video-link in bail hearings. The report concludes that “As it is currently being used, videolink technology does not allow for a fair hearing” and calls for its use to be discontinued. Earlier this year, PhD researcher Jo Hynes wrote about her own experience of observing bail hearings conducted via video-link, and poor outcomes these result in.

The report also gives a window onto the brutal conveyor-belt process of video-link hearings, and the diminished role of the person whose liberty is in question:

Along with the report authors, we at Right to Remain want immigration detention to end, for everyone. While it exists, reports such as this are vital for highlighting just how much detention acts as a barrier to justice and denies people their basic rights.



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