The Habeas Corpus Project [‘HCP’] is a non-profit organisation that provides pro-bono legal representation in challenging unlawful detention of individuals in the UK. The name was inspired by the principle of Habeas Corpus.
The organisation was founded in July 2014 by Ousman Noor, a practicing barrister. Ousman has developed extensive experience in representing individuals in immigration detention, often making bail applications in Immigration Tribunals on their behalf. This experience led to a strong conviction that immigration detention was often performed unlawfully with insufficient transparency or accountability to the rule of law. This view appeared to be shared by other legal practitioners, including Michael Fordham QC, author of Immigration Detention and the Rule of Law, a report commissioned by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law who stated that ‘[immigration detention] is one of the most pressing rule of law issues of our era’.
It is clear that the lack of accessible and/or affordable legal representation is a fundamental reason for the non-accountability in challenging unlawful detention. This problem has increased as a result of the government’s cuts to legal aid affecting the availability of legal representation in judicial review work. Whilst the HCP joins others in campaigning against these cuts, we recognise that without the assistance of lawyers continuing to work on a pro-bono basis, it will become increasingly difficult for individuals to challenge unlawful detention leading to further deterioration in access to justice and the rule of law.
Upon foundation, the organisation was funded by Ousman Noor. The HCP’s future will depend on the support and involvement of volunteers and contributors who share the aspirations of the organisation. The work of HCP can be broadly divided in to three categories (i) Litigation (ii) Training (iii) Publications.
The English and Welsh legal system provides important mechanisms, developed over many centuries, for challenging unlawful detention. The HCP provides comprehensive pro-bono representation to individuals including case preparation, lodging applications and court room advocacy to utilise these legal mechanisms on behalf of detained individuals.
The majority of challenges to unlawful detention are in the form of bail applications to Immigration Tribunals. Whilst such applications often achieve a release from detention for individuals, there are significant limitations to the process and the remedies available. The Bail Observation Report authored by the Campaign to Close Campsfield observed 220 bail applications in 2012-2013 and concluded that the process suffered from a lack of sufficient representation, accountability, scrutiny or monitoring resulting in ineffective remedies for detained individuals.
The HCP focuses on applications for judicial review to the High Court of Justice. These applications benefit from a wider range of remedies and involve a higher degree of judicial oversight. Due to the elevated jurisdiction, such applications usually involve greater exposure to costs as well as greater legal fees demanded by legal representatives. It is in this arena which HCP can contribute the most by providing legal expertise to individuals on a pro-bono basis.
We will be working with other active organisations in assessing the facts and circumstances of detained individuals to evaluate candidacy for representation by HCP. We will be reporting on any significant developments in the cases that we take on in Our Cases section of this website.
In addition to providing legal representation, the HCP will aim to provide training to solicitors, barristers, OISC advisors, NGO’s, students and other interested organisations on the legal framework for making claims for unlawful detention.
The training will involve a combination of online material, tool-kits and regular seminars aimed at providing practical information on case preparation, drafting grounds, issuing applications, case-law updates and guidance on court room advocacy. The training will be published on the Training section of the HCP website.
The HCP hopes to help publish and disseminate important research, reports and statistics by academics, legal practitioners and NGO’s in relation to unlawful detention in the UK and abroad. Whenever possible, these works will be published on the HCP website with the permission of the respective authors. The aim of these publications will be improve cross-fertilisation of research and strengthen co-operation between interested groups and individuals. We also hope that the publications will improve awareness of issues relating to unlawful detention amongst the general public.
We also aim to work with academics and practitioners to commission new and independent research in to specific areas of unlawful detention. Opportunities to work with HCP on upcoming projects will be published on the Publications section of our website.