To JR or not to JR, that is the question

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
25 July 2023

We acted on behalf of a claimant who challenged by way of claim for Judicial Review the ongoing failure of the Home Office to determine his application for naturalisation as a British citizen. He made the application in 2019 and is has remained outstanding without any explanation until July 2023. The claimant applied for asylum in the UK and was successful and was granted refugee status. He was granted a Refugee Convention Travel document and indefinite leave to remain. There were no credibility issues raised by the Home Office as to his account and his background was accepted. It appears from from the Home Office records that the Home Office conducted checks on his background, including his immigration history, and on the Police National Computer, and on the face of it nothing was found to give cause for concern and no reason was ever given to doubt that our client was of good character.

When our client did not receive a decision on a straightforward application for naturalisation, he wrote to the Managed Migration Support Team who stated that they aim to process all applications within six months from the date submitted, but in certain circumstances this target is not possible and following their own assessment of the case it appears that our client’s application cannot be processed within the six month target. Our client’s MP corresponded with the Home Office in relation to the application and the MP as well received the same answer. Our client and the MP tried to convince the Home Office that there was nothing complicated in the case and they should make a decision. The solicitors who acted for him before us wrote to the Home Office in 2021 providing further evidence of his continuous residence in the UK and explained that the continued uncertainty relating to his application placed considerable stress on him. They requested a decision with the utmost urgency.

Again the Home Office reply was that the inquiries have not been completed with regard to the client’s application. On 16th November 2022 once we were instructed, we sought disclosure of his Home Office record, and submitted a pre-action protocol (letter before claim) highlighting the length of the delay and requesting a decision on the naturalisation application within 14 days. We have received no substantive response. There was no further response from the Home Office and we had no choice but to seek leave to Judicially Review the ongoing failure by the Home Office to carry out their duties.

We have submitted a claim for Judicial Review and we argued that the delay amounted to a procedural unfairness, the delay of four years is excessive, and no explanation was offered, no engagement with the pre-action protocol, no response to us or to the MP and no explanation as to what checks needed to be carried out. Why should checks take so long given that our client had an impeccable immigration history and there was no doubt as to his credibility and the conduct of this asylum claim?

We also argued that the delay was irrational, we sought a remedy which is the decision made on his application for naturalisation within 28 days. After we submitted the application for leave for Judicial Review, the Home Office representative, namely the Legal Department, offered to settle the matter by consent. Upon the Home Office agreeing to issue a decision on our client’s naturalisation application within 12 weeks from the date of the order, it was agreed by consent that we will withdraw the claim for Judicial Review and that the Home Office will pay our client’s reasonable costs. That was agreed and within 10 days of this agreement, our client was notified that his application for naturalisation was successful and that he will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony.

The importance of this case to us is that whilst we were reluctant to encourage our client to incur the costs of seeking Judicial Review proceedings, the delay was so excessive that our decision paid off.