Measures that would see immigration lawyers go unpaid if their
clients failed to win an asylum application appeal could result in
many legal experts leaving the field.
Rick Scannell, chair of the Immigration Law Practitioners
Association, warned delegates at the Refugee Council’s conference
on the impact of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 that it was
unacceptable to expect immigration solicitors and barristers to
work on a “no win, no fee” basis.
He warned that many would be less likely to take on cases, adding
that some senior practitioners had already left the field.
Scannell called the proposals – currently out for consultation –
“inappropriate for immigration work, ill-timed and unnecessary”,
adding that they would damage asylum seekers’ ability to access
“It is notoriously difficult to predict the outcome of cases. There
are some good and bad adjudicators and witness performance is
crucial. But with conditional fees, practitioners are going to be
asked to pre-judge which cases are likely to win,” he said.
He added that cases where a client wanted to change solicitor for
an appeal involved many hours of preparation work to familiarise
themselves with the circumstances of the case. “Under the current
proposals, none of that would be paid for,” he said.
The Home Office hope the proposals, part of a broader tightening up
of the asylum application process, will reduce the mushrooming
amount of legal aid funds spent on asylum cases by encouraging
lawyers to make a more rigorous appraisal of cases’ merits. Under
the proposals, fees would also be paid for “near miss” cases.