Legal Aid Awards 2014
The twelfth annual awards, organised by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, were presented to lawyers in 11 categories.
Trent Chambers Door Tenant S Chelvan of No 5 Chambers won the award for legal aid barrister of the year for his work with asylum seekers, particularly those who are gay or transgender.
Newcastle firm Ben Hoare Bell received the award for legal aid firm of the year, recognising its commitment to publicly funded work, the skills of its lawyers like Cris McCurley and Simon Garlick and its campaign against the legal aid cuts. Trent Chambers continues to work in close association with Ben Hoare Bell in such areas as forced marriage, domestic violence, child abduction and wardship issues.
(1) Usha Sood has been part of the legal team In the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) Judicial Review challenge to GP training from the ‘huge’ differential pass rates between IMGs and UK graduates in the new MRCGP assessment. Permission was granted in the High Court to BAPIO vs the Royal College of General Practitioners and the General Medical Council in the JR against exam assessments as discriminatory and unfair. (Being heard on 8th to 10th April 2014).
(2) Usha Sood has provided a legal article for the British International Doctors’ Association: (due April 2014)
“ Inhumane, Unfair and Discriminatory: The New Immigration Rules for Dependant Parents“.
This defines the need for former international medical professionals to persuade the Government to reverse Immigration Rules regarding the human rights of elderly dependants to join their migrant children in the UK
Shere Khan success
A further favourable ruling has been secured through Chambers in respect of 69 individuals working for the Shere Khan Restaurant chain, who were initially arrested and detained in 2006 detained during Operation Chalice and had their work permits revoked. Their families’ residency rights were also disrupted as a result of the SSHD’s decision on 2nd February 2007 to issue S 10 notices against them for alleged breach of work permits by being at a different branch. Some individuals have left the country.
It was agreed during the consequential judicial review proceedings before Mr Justice Charles on 11th November 2008 that they should have had rights of appeal, and the High Court remitted the matter back to the Tribunal. Several then had their rights of leave restored. (reported as Jabbar & Ors, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 3210 (Admin). Mr Justice Charles had left it to the Tribunal to make findings as to the validity of the notices. All these individuals had been living in straitened financial circumstances, and were unable to work or progress their lives and livelihoods during the last few years. Few of the original number had ever had access to public funding, and most had to borrow to litigate and live.
At various directions hearings in 2009, unsuccessful requests were made by the remaining 9 Appellants for disclosure of evidence of the Operation Chalice operation, and copies of interview notes, to try and establish the legality of and the extent to which the pre-requisites of the Operation Enforcement Manual had been complied with.
All of the remaining S10 notices were then belatedly withdrawn by the UKBA on 26th June 2009, the day before the tribunal hearing, leaving the Appellants in total limbo as to their status. S120 One Stop notices dated 12th August 2009 were then served, and some Appellants then received further notices of various dates. We recently successfully represented Shakeel Ahmed, arising out of the same 2006 facts.
Damages and restitution of status are still to be achieved. The protracted litigation created by the Secretary of State has interfered with their rights under Article 8 to respect for their family, work life and private lives. In fact, the Secretary of State has acted in a way which is incompatible with their Convention rights unlawfully under section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998.
3 September 2010 www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire11184865
Chambers were also involved in a recent successful fact-finding in family proceedings against a husband and his parents, with costs being awarded jointly and severally against all three of them.
The salient facts are noted below in their criminal conviction reports in the media:
A man avoided a jail term along with his parents after they were convicted of assaulting and imprisoning his wife.
Saira Ahmed, 28, was hit at the family home in Banbury, Oxfordshire, while pregnant and again after giving birth.
Her husband Mudassar Ahmed, 29, and Iftakhar and Halima Ahmed, both 52, denied false imprisonment and causing actual bodily harm (ABH).
At Oxford Crown Court, Mrs Ahmed was given a nine-month suspended term, and the men six-month suspended sentences.
Mrs Ahmed was also told she would have to undertake 100 hours of community service.
Mudassar Ahmed and Iftakhar Ahmed were told they would have to carry out 80 hours each of community service.
Facts: CPS Press Release
Three members of the same family were convicted of ABH and false imprisonment at Oxford Crown Court on 10 August, following a two-week trial. Mudassar Ahmed, 29, and his parents Halima and Iftikhar Ahmed, both 52, had all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The first offences of assault, including kicking and hitting, were committed in June of 2007 when the victim, Saira Ahmed, 28, who had married Mudassar Ahmed in 2006, was seven months pregnant with his child. They lived together in his parents’ house in Banbury.
Later offences committed in August of the same year involved the deliberate separation of Saira from her tiny baby daughter, as well as further physical assault and false imprisonment.
CPS Complex Casework Unit lawyer, Ben Gumpert, said after the trial: ‘This was a case where the family’s outward appearance was of calm and respectability. All three defendants bitterly contested the allegations. The determination to bring the case to trial on the part of the CPS and the police, plus the jury’s verdicts, demonstrate that violent offending will be prosecuted whoever the offenders may be and whether it occurs in the home or in the street.’
The family claimed Saira Ahmed made up the allegations to gain a divorce without bringing ‘shame’ to herself or her family. However, the jury found that Saira’s husband and parents-in-law had subjected her to domestic abuse, which began with verbal bullying and escalated into sustained episodes of violence.
Fortunately Saira received support from healthcare professionals to whom she made complaints and whose evidence was important in supporting her when she eventually decided to go to the police.
HH Judge Anthony King had warned them they might receive prison sentences.
Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls: Working Towards a National Strategy – 1 st December 2009
The aim of this symposium was to assess the prospects for a national strategy to end violence against women and girls in all its forms. Additionally to consider the latest National Domestic Violence Delivery Plan 2009-10, announced earlier this summer, and explore how the combination of better use of new powers and more effective multi-agency working can help to construct a stronger system to safeguard victims and deal with perpetrators of domestic violence and other crimes, such as ‘honour’ based violence.
Usha Sood spoke with specific reference to Safeguarding Victims of Domestic Violence – Empowering the Police, Courts and Improving Multi-Agency Working.
This event built on the success of a previous symposium on September 16th 2009 entitled Working Together to Tackle Forced Marriage and “Honour” Based Crime at which Usha Sood also spoke with reference to :
- Raising Awareness and Understanding of Forced Marriage and the Services Available
- Utilising Existing Legislative Powers to Identify, Protect & Support Victims
- Successfully Implementing the ‘One Chance Rule’& Improving Multi-Agency Working
- Overcoming Sensitive Cultural Barriers through Better Community Engagement
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Mother says family faces jail in Tehran for possessing extracts from Satanic Verses and criticising regime
Lawyers for a nine-year-old boy set to be removed from the UK tomorrow are urgently trying to stop his deportation.
The Iranian boy, known for legal reasons as Child M, has been locked up in Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire, the UK’s main immigration removal centre for women and families, since he was arrested with his mother and older brother in Manchester this week. They are due to be put on a flight to Iran tomorrow at 6.30pm.
Child M’s mother has been trying to claim asylum, saying her life is in danger if she returns to Iran because photocopied extracts of Salman Rushdie‘s novel The Satanic Verses were found in her house and business.
Richard Jones, Child M’s lawyer, has given a new report to the UK border agency in which an independent expert testifies that the arrest warrant is genuine and states that the family would be in grave danger if sent back. If the agency discarded the report, the child’s lawyers would make an urgent application to a high court judge for an injunction to prevent the deportation and allow the fresh evidence to be considered, he said.
In April this year, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the children’s commissioner for England, said children refused asylum should no longer be detained while awaiting deportation. He warned in a report that children found time spent in Yarl’s Wood “like being in prison”.
Child M spent several weeks in Yarl’s Wood last year and suffered serious physical and mental health problems as a result, said Jones.
Speaking from Yarl’s Wood yesterday, his mother, 48, who cannot be named for her own safety, said about 10 immigration officers came into her house at 8.15am on Monday and took her and her two sons, Child M and his brother, 19. She collapsed and was taken to hospital before going to Yarl’s Wood in a wheelchair.
She said her son was reacting very badly to the experience. “He wet himself last night. He has nightmares. He feels very defenceless,” she said.
She added that she and her family would be sent to prison not only as punishment for being in possession of The Satanic Verses, but for publicly criticising the Iranian regime.
Her 23-year-old daughter was not at the house when the raid occurred and is now in hiding. She said Child M was receiving psychiatric help and had only recently begun to sleep in his own room. During his last incarceration he had a rash and his hair had begun to fall out, according to his lawyers.
“He was getting better, but now this is going to take him back to square one,” she said. UK border officials had removed her clothes as well as personal items from the house.
The family say they came to the UK in the summer of 2007 to visit relatives and recover from the death of Child M’s father, who had died in a car accident. They say they intended to stay only for one or two months, but then received a phone call from Iran saying their home and business had been raided by police.Lawyers have previously produced a copy and translation of the arrest warrant, which said the arrests were “with respect to disseminating fabrication and propagating against the sacred system of the Islamic Republic of Iran through printing and publishing the noxious book Satanic Verses”.
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Strasbourg, 03.06.2008 – The Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) held a hearing in Paris on 6 June on “The urgent need for action on so-called ‘honour crimes’”.
Trent Chambers are proud to announce that Head of Chambers – Usha Sood was guest speaker at the hearing.
The participants joined with the committee members in discussing this issue included a representative of Amnesty International, an expert in the social work field, the director of an international campaign against “honour crimes”, and a lawyer.
The hearing, which focussed on the current situation in Europe and around the world and on ways of preventing and combating “honour crimes”, provided John Austin (United Kingdom, SOC) with material for a report on this subject.
The committee also held its ordinary meeting considering two reports, one on “Involving men to achieve gender equality”, the other on “Marital rape”.
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A Hindu bride whose marriage ended after less than three months has won an unprecedented legal fight to get back her dowry.
Bobita Verma, 23, a mortgage consultant from Bradford, has successfully sued the groom’s parents for the return of wedding gifts, believed to be worth several thousand pounds.
It is the first public judgment in England on an Asian maritial dispute and is expected to encourage other brides in the same position to come forward.
Miss Verma said: “I have done something that a lot of other girls would have felt ashamed to do. Even though there is nothing to be ashamed of, they would have felt ashamed.”
Bradford Crown Court found in Miss Verma’s favour after a three-year legal battle.
Her in-laws, Balkrishan and Radha Verma, must now return the dowry or the monetary equivalent. Its value will be set at a further court hearing.
Bobita and Rakesh Verma, 29, married in August 1996 and the bride was given a dowry – to be looked after by her in-laws – including a traditional Indian tapestry and a bed, by her parents, Faqir and Shanti Verma.
Within months the marriage fell apart and Miss Verma moved back to her parent’s house in Bradford.
Her husband filed for divorce, which was granted last year, on grounds of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
When she went to collect the wedding gifts from her in-laws house she was not allowed in.
Usha Sood, a barrister representing dozens of women fighting to get their dowry back through British courts, said: “Gone are the days when young women were very submissive and felt for the sake of the family honour they had to leave all their jewellery and clothing behind.”
Jacqui French, senior partner at the Nottingham-based law firm French and Co, which represented Miss Verma, said the company was dealing with several more Asian women in the same situation who were prepared to go through open court.
The dowry system has been illegal in India since 1961 and some would like a similar law introudce in Britain. But traditionalists say the law should not be allowed to destroy an age old tradition. Tripta Sareen, who attends a Hindu temple in Leicester, said: “These English judges do not understand our culture and even if they do try to give a judgment, their judgement will not be fair.”
Source: BBC News (28.04.2000)
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