'We must improve our courts, resolve backlogs, and close loopholes'

The magnificent Lady Justice statue ontop of the Old Bailey

Loopholes in the court system need to be closed, says Ipswich's MP - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The UK courts currently have a huge backlog, with victims waiting years for justice.

As a local MP I see many complaints coming into my inbox about the courts procedure and how long things are taking. I am also inundated with individuals who are concerned about illegal immigration across the channel.

To free up capacity in our courts system, we need to stop immigration cases from clogging up the legal process.

While all other areas only have two attempts at appeal, for some reason illegal immigration and asylum cases are treated as exceptional and given three bites of the cherry. This is a disproportionate use of resources, especially when only 3% of those cases are successful.

Just yesterday, 33 individuals – including criminals - escaped deportation through lodging last-minute legal challenges. We cannot allow illegal immigrants and criminals to take advantage of our system.

Priti Patel has said she will make it easier to remove criminals who are not British citizens, which is a commitment I welcome. How can it be right that some individuals are abusing our rights of appeal to try to stay in the country as long as possible? This isn’t fair, and it needs to change.

The Judicial Review and Courts Bill, which I am on the Bill committee for, aims to fix this. Bill committees are parliament’s way of looking at new pieces of legislation, line by line, and putting them into law. It is an opportunity to have a direct influence on legislation, and I’m very pleased to be able to support the government in working on a Bill which can improve our courts system, resolve backlogs, and close loopholes.

Tom Hunt

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt argues that appeals against deportation - the majority of which fail - take up too much court time and cost - Credit: House of Commons

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The Bill would address the volume of cases in courts. Meanwhile, Labour are opposing every measure the Government is trying to introduce to tackle the courts backlog, and yet ironically complain about the delays in the system. They even put in a motion on the “urgent need to tackle the backlog in our courts” while standing in the way of government progress on the same issue. Labour are really trying to have their cake and eat it on this issue.

The practicalities cannot be ignored, and as much as they love open borders and uncontrolled migration, they cannot be surprised at the influx of illegal immigration cases this inevitably causes.

The government is using the Bill to overturn a current loophole in the legal system, meaning specific cases have greater right to appeal than most others.

Currently, the rules allow cases which have been twice denied to have another round of appeals, taking cases as far as the High Court. This can lead to highly undesirable people, who have committed crimes in the UK and face to deportation, remaining in the country much longer than they should – and at the taxpayers’ expense. These cases can take months to resolve, and pile more on to the already heaving courts system. While the Government is trying to address this, Labour are standing in the way at every opportunity.

Judicial review in the High Courts is a very expensive process, and a drain on taxpayers’ money. The courts have a limited amount of time, so the volume of appeals is slowing down the whole process for others awaiting trial. It also drags valuable legal aid away from those who desperately need it. I have seen desperate cases put before me, unable to access legal aid and suffering because of the excessive backlogs.

The High Court in London

The High Court in London - Credit: PA

Just 3% of the cases put to appeal in the High Courts are successful, further confirmation that this is a waste of taxpayer money. It doesn’t make sense to pour resources into appeals which have such a low success rate anyway. So few of these cases, which take up valuable court time, are even successful. I know for a fact that when I attend this Bill committee, my constituents would want me to speak up for ending this wasteful spending.

These cases, which are currently granted an extra bite of the cherry, are predominantly on illegal immigration, immigrants with criminal backgrounds and asylum cases, too. The Government is trying the expedite the process for deporting people, mostly illegal immigrants and many of whom have criminal backgrounds. At the moment, giving these cases extra chances to appeal is creating a backlog, costing the taxpayer, and morally isn’t right.

Why should these cases be treated so differently? The Government is overturning a decision which has previously given immigration and asylum cases special treatment.

Either Labour want to extend the third bite of the cherry to all issues, which clogs up the courts system further, or they believe immigration cases deserve special treatment. On the Bill committee, my aims are to support the Government and close loopholes. Both options would drain resources, which is what the government’s Bill is trying to prevent. It’s clear that Labour don’t know how to run a country and continue to be steeped in their own contradictions.

I’m pleased to see other measures to reduce the pressure on courts included in the Bill too, like making better use of online systems. I’m supportive of the Bill’s move to digitalise some processes, like using an automatic online penalty system for a few minor offences which do not carry sentences, like not having a train ticket when travelling. This gives defendants the option to complete cases online without involving the courts – which means less pressure on the courts system overall.

This Bill is motivated by the Government’s desire to free up capacity in the courts system. It’s vital that we see this change soon, the injustices of such a long backlog to those awaiting trial needs to be remedied.

It’s no surprise that Labour are resisting the efforts of the Government to do this – and simultaneously complaining about the current courts backlog! It’s hypocrisy at it’s finest.

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