Ousman Noor, barrister and founder of the Habeas Corpus Project, has successfully represented an immigration detainee in a judicial review at which his client was found to have been detained unlawfully for 8 months. In December last year, the Court also ruled that the client, Mr Ilori, is entitled to compensatory damages. Acting pro bono, Ousman's success came despite an initial ruling by the High Court that the claim was 'totally without merit'.
Ousman also secured a pro bono costs order, payable by the Home Office, which will go to go the Access to Justice Foundation to distribute to law centres and promote access to justice in the UK.
Mr Ilori had no criminal convictions or cautions, had independent medical evidence of being the victim of torture and had a wife and child in the UK. He was detained in February 2016 and remained in detention until January 2017 while the Secretary of State considered his claim for asylum protection. He was detained in both The Verne and Brook House Immigration Removal Centres, where a recent BBC Panorama investigation claimed that widespread abuse towards detainees was taking place.
Mr Ilori sought the assistance of the Habeas Corpus Project on a pro bono basis after having been turned down by legal aid providers due to a perceived lack of merit.
In November 2017, the Bar Council commissioned 'Injustice in Immigration Detention', written by Dr Anna Lindley of SOAS, which highlighted a catalogue of concerns including the absence of a time limit, inadequate access to legal help or to the courts, and a lack of accountability in the detention system. Approximately 30,000 individuals are held in immigration detention each year, with no upper limit on the length of time they can be held. The decision to detain requires no trial or court order.
About the Habeas Corpus Project
The Habeas Corpus Project was one of the first entities to be authorised by the Bar Standards Board to provide pro bono legal representation to immigration detainees. The project provided legal advice and representation to over 250 individuals held in immigration detention from 2015-2017 and successfully secured several pro bono costs orders for the Access to Justice Foundation. Although the centre closed due to a lack of funding, Ousman Noor has continued to provide legal representation in this area of law and was appointed Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS: University of London where he hopes to establish a new Asylum and Immigration Law Centre within the university.
The legal representation was provided on a 'public access' basis without the use of a solicitor and Ousman Noor conducted both litigation and advocacy services throughout the proceedings.