Afghan refugee wins right to claim 'substantial damages' from UK government

Judge finds a ‘number of failings’ in the management of his detention

The case was heard at The Royal Courts of Justice in London. i-Images
The case was heard at The Royal Courts of Justice in London. i-Images

An Afghan refugee has won the right to claim “substantial” damages from the British government after he was wrongly jailed while awaiting his deportation appeal.

The 27-year-old man, who has not been named, arrived in the UK on a lorry in 2009 and was subsequently refused leave to remain.

He was jailed for a machete attack in 2016 but when he was due to be released from prison he was detained for a further nine months while the Home Secretary considered him for deportation.

London’s high court heard he could have been held in an immigration removal centre or at a registered address.

The 27-year-old man, who has not been named, arrived in the UK on a lorry in 2009. i-Images
The 27-year-old man, who has not been named, arrived in the UK on a lorry in 2009. i-Images

Instead, reviews by the probation service deemed him as being at high risk of reoffending and of absconding, and failed to mention his diagnosis of having a mental health problem, the court heard.

“I make some observations on the course of the claimant's detention between February 2017 and January 2018. Over that period, there were a substantial number of failings in the management of his detention,” Mr Justice Morris said.

“Little or no proper assessment of the actual position appears to have been made in each detention review.

“I conclude that consideration of the claimant's detention, in the detention reviews and generally, has failed, by some margin, to be 'robust and formally documented' as required.

“In summary, the Secretary of State overestimated the risk of absconding, and also the risk of harm from re-offending, whilst at the same time underestimating the harmful impact upon his mental health of continuing detention. The claimant was highly vulnerable. He was detained in prison rather than in an immigration removal centre. His removal was never likely.

“As regards the risk of absconding, this was not remotely as high as the Secretary of State considered. At most the claimant was a medium risk of absconding. That risk could have been managed by a series of conditions upon release including being put on a tag, a curfew and reporting. As regards the risk of harm from re-offending, this again was overstated by the Secretary of State. It was at most a medium risk.

“The unlawful detention identified gives rise to a right to substantial damages.”

The court heard when he was finally released he was given no accommodation and was forced to sleep on park benches.

He had initially been sentenced to 26 months in June 2016 for possession of a bladed article, two counts of criminal damage, two counts of possession of a class 'B' drug, a racially and religiously aggravated public order offence, dangerous driving and a racially aggravated assault.

The father-of-two was due for release in February 2017 but was immediately detained pending a deportation order and repeatedly refused bail until January 2018.

In 2019 he won the right to stay in the UK and was given refugee status on the grounds he would face a “real risk of serious” harm if he was returned to Afghanistan.

A damages figure will be determined by the parties and the court.

Updated: May 4, 2021 04:09 PM

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