Lawyers should remember that a duty of candour in litigation is of ‘paramount importance’, the Law Society has warned after the Court of Appeal said the government ‘misled’ the High Court in a dispute over its decision to refuse unaccompanied child refugees in Calais the right to join their families.

In Citizens UK v secretary of state for the home department, the Court of Appeal said the government had committed a ‘serious breach’ in its duty of candour to the court by not providing all relevant evidence of its decision-making with regards to vulnerable children. The ruling also revealed that lawyers at the Home Office gave advice on how to avoid legal challenges by not giving children reasons for their refusal.

Christina Blacklaws

Christina Blacklaws

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said lawyers, whether acting for government or private clients, owe a duty of candour in litigation and that clients must be advised to act in good faith. She added: ‘This ruling provides yet more evidence of the urgent need for a consistent and transparent process for every asylum claim, particularly for minors.’

According to Chancery Lane, 50% of all immigration and asylum appeals are upheld when reviewed by a judge, underlining the need for action. ‘We need an immigration and asylum process that makes lawful, timely and consistent decisions for everyone in order to maintain trust in the justice system and uphold the rule of law,’ Blacklaws said.

After the closure of the Calais ‘jungle’, the government conducted more than 1,000 interviews with unaccompanied children who claimed to have family in the UK. Some were let in but some were refused. The court said the Home Office’s process for refusing to transfer the children was ‘unfair and unlawful’.

Lord Justice Singh, who heard the case alongside Lord Justice Hickinbottom and Lady Justice Arden, said not presenting the evidence to the High Court hearing was ‘a serious breach of the duty of candour and co-operation’.