Home > News > Landmark barristers appear in High Court challenge to detention in a ‘legal aid desert’

Last week, Alex Goodman and Miranda Butler appeared in SPM and Women for Refugee Women v Secretary of State for the Home Department, a challenge to the Home Office’s decision to detain women in a remote part of the UK with very little access to legal aid. SPM, a woman who was detained at Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre, and Women for Refugee Women, an NGO which supports women at the detention centre, brought the first claim challenging the operation of Derwentside on the grounds that it inhibits detainees from accessing justice. For the first six months of its operation, Derwentside’s initial advice rota has operated mainly by telephone and women detained at the centre have received only six in-person visits. The claimants put forward evidence that remote-only legal assistance creates a barrier to communicating with legal representatives and is liable to inhibit crucial disclosures by vulnerable women.

The claimants also argue that the Home Office’s decision to detain women in a remote part of the UK with inferior legal aid provision amounts to unlawful discrimination.

This is the first case of its kind and is of particular significance in light of the Home Office’s recent decisions to accommodate asylum seekers in remote parts of the UK and to remove asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The claim was heard on 28-29 June 2022 by Mrs Justice Lang in the Administrative Court. Judgment is awaited.

The case has been reported in the Independent.

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