The first two-thirds of this book covers the author’s ‘journey to the immigration judiciary’, while the remaining third covers his attempt ‘to explain more clearly the many issues surrounding immigration and how it is handled’. This section is particularly interesting, given Hanratty’s bench-eye view of immigration law.
Having been educated by Jesuits at Catholic public school Stonyhurst, followed by five-year articles in private practice in Derbyshire, the author joined the Lord Chancellor’s Department. He began in the Criminal Appeals Office before moving to the heart of the department to become one of the lord chancellor’s legal advisers. He was then given four years’ leave of absence to join the attorney general’s chambers in Hong Kong.
On his return to the department, he swiftly became one of two assistant secretaries whose function was to advise the lord chancellor on judicial appointments.
Then came a step-change in terms of managerial responsibility, when he became chief executive of the Royal Courts of Justice, which put him in charge of 1,500 people.
In 1991 the author went back to Hong Kong, where his duties – apart from creating the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (pictured) to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council – involved managing the details of the handover to China.
Author: James Hanratty RD
When the handover was completed, the author was, by mutual consent, released to the Lord Chancellor’s Department. However, he did indicate that he would like to be an immigration adjudicator, as judges of the First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) were then called before becoming less formally known as immigration judges. The motivation for this change in direction derived from the fact that he had long been deeply involved in immigration and nationality law, not least during his time in Hong Kong. In 1987 he had set up the system within which adjudicators deal with appeals against decisions made by Home Office officials. He duly became an adjudicator and continued to serve until his retirement in 2014.
The author’s account of the work of an immigration judge is liberally illustrated with anecdotal examples drawn from cases which have come before him.
He emphasises the importance of judges ‘even in unmeritorious cases’ being ‘kind, charitable and compassionate to those involved’, while remembering that possession of these qualities does not require judges to ‘leave common sense at the door of the court and be gullible and frankly stupid on the bench’.
The author’s thoughts on immigration as a whole cover well-trodden ground and readers will find they contain much that is of interest.
Ian McLeod is a former head of law at London Metropolitan University