The aim of the Bail Observation Project (BOP) is to scrutinise the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal, to publicise its concerns and to propose ways in which it can be improved.
We encourage anyone with an interest in bail for immigration detainees to go to the immigration courts, make observations of bail application hearings, and write up a report. We anticipate campaigners, supporters of detainees, researchers, students, law students will want to take part. Please us, stating your interests, and whether you want to work alone or in a group. And do make use of our materials (see Resources and publications). We look forward to hearing from you.
Any reports received will be reviewed by the Bail Observation Project for publication on the website. The Project reserves the right to edit reports (with the author’s agreement) before posting them. Submitted reports will be published on the Resources and publications page.
The Bail Observation Project
The BOP was established in 2010 by volunteers who were concerned about the immigration bail process and the anecdotal information pointing to serious flaws in it. There was also an absence of research and a need for evidence.
The Campaign to Close Campsfield formed a steering group to design a research project to get sound evidence showing the lack of justice and neglect of human rights in the way immigration law, and specifically bail hearings, operate in the UK. Immigration detention seemed to us to be one of the worst aspects of the way we deal with immigrants in the UK.
We started with The Bail Observation Project. Our findings from a total of 327 observations of bail hearings showed that even the Home Office’s own instructions, rules and guidelines were not followed in many cases; and that the system itself denies justice to detainees in a number of ways.
Our two reports, Immigration Bail Hearings: A Travesty of Justice? Observations from the Public Gallery (2011) and Still a Travesty: Justice in Immigration Bail Hearings” (2013) were widely circulated.
Our objectives for ‘Stage Three’
We want to build on our results to further expose the scale of injustice and infringements of human rights in the UK immigration legal system. We believe our reports show that we require root and branch reform of a fatally flawed system. One major objective is to raise public awareness and engage many more people in seeing that the necessary reforms are made.
The hardest hit are those immigrants with no legal representation. At least we should aim to ensure that the treatment of migrants is not inferior to the treatment of British citizens. We want to identify a range of significant improvements that are needed and also suggest how these could happen.
We believe justice has to be seen in order for it to be done. But in the 327 bail hearings we observed, we did not see a single other member of the public in court apart from ourselves and the parties to the application. There is little public knowledge of what really goes on, including amongst MPs.
Areas of concern
In our reports, we have made a number of points about the bail process; some are listed below. Developing a research project based on these or your own ideas could yield valuable results and provide a basis for a postgraduate degree.
Lack of automatic judicial oversight of the decision to detain
Conduct of hearings (e.g. Immigration Judge not asking Home Office lawyer for evidence of assertions by the Home Office Presenting Officer or in the bail summary)
Bail summary (never officially translated, essential in most DIY cases)
Video link hearings
Accountability, scrutiny, monitoring (First Tier Tribunal judges are not monitored)
Guidelines and training for immigration judges
Record (written or audio) of the entire proceedings (none taken at present)
1 Overall non-adherence to the rules/guidelines/instructions.
2 Interpreting arrangements. Please see the manifesto of Professional Interpreters for Justice.
3 Lack of information given to people detained.
4 The relationship between the Home Office and Immigration Removal centre managers and the potential for collusion. This includes issues to do with health, Rule 34 and Rule 35 reports.
5 Availability of statistics on many issues to do with detention.
6 Lack of consistency in decision making.
Ideas for projects
You can tailor the research to whatever angle or component of the process interests you most. Possible examples:
1 Differences between hearings where the applicant is represented by a lawyer and those where they are representing themselves.
2 How bail hearings diverge from Bail Guidance for Immigration Judges.
3 Comparison of bail hearings in criminal courts with those in Immigration Tribunals.
4 Effects of video-link hearings, particularly where interpreting is needed.
5 Investigation of complaints procedures, with help from friendly lawyers. (We could help with contacts if necessary).
We are hoping to collect narrative accounts of part or all of proceedings at bail hearings attended by people with some awareness of the law involved, so exposing the nature of hearings where no record was kept of the entire proceedings.
Now see How to get started