Although it is quite common for judges sitting in Courts such as the County Court and the High Court to give oral judgements right after a hearing, the judges at the first-tier Immigration and Asylum Tribunal were not allowed to give oral judgements prior to 20th October 2014. They would have to reserve their judgements and provide them in writing after the hearing. This would normally be 2-3 weeks; however, sometimes it would take months to deliver their judgement.
The position was changed on 20th October 2014 when the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) Rules 2014 (SI 2604/2014) was brought into force.
Under the current procedure rules, an immigration judge can deliver their judgement orally at the hearing, provided that in an asylum or humanitarian protection case, the judge must provide a written reasoning afterwards and in other cases, the parties have the right to request such written reasoning if not provided.
The question is: what will happen if a judges written reasoning conflicts their oral judgement given at the hearing?
The case PAA (FtT: Oral decision – written reasons) Iraq  UKUT 00013 (IAC) dealt with this issue. Unlike in the case the Secretary of State for the Home Department v SM (Rwanda)  EWCA Civ 2770 where the IAC granted an invalid bail, in PAA, the judge initially allowed the appeal, but in his subsequent written reasoning, he dismissed the appeal.
The facts of PAA case are very simple. The appellant was a national of Iraq. He came to the UK to claim asylum. He claimed that he was 16 years old. After an asylum interview, the Home Office accepted his age and granted him leave valid until he was 17 and half years old, in line with their policy on unaccompanied policy.
Unfortunately, the Secretary of the State refused his claim for asylum and humanitarian protection on 17th March 2018. The Appellant appealed against such refusal. His appeal was heard on 23rd May 2018. At the hearing, the judge indicated that he had allowed the appeal. He asked the Appellant to go back home and wait for his written judgement/reasoning.
The appellant was of course very happy. He left the Court with his guardian and social worker with high expectation, but only to receive a written decision dated 21st June 2018 to dismiss his appeal. He immediately appealed to the Upper Immigration and Asylum Tribunal.
In dealing with the appeal, the Upper Tribunal has ruled as follows:
- Both the oral and written decisions are the Court’s decisions; however, only the first (oral) decision will be the decision of the case, in this case, the judgement of the appeal.
- When the first and second decisions conflict each other, both decisions will stand until one of them is set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction and until then, neither party can enforce the decisions.
- The time of appeal to a Court of competent jurisdiction runs from the date when the written decision is provided, not the date of the hearing when the oral decision is provided; however, parties may be able to apply for extension of time in such circumstances.
It is very clear from the first point of the Upper Tribunal’s judgement that both parties were wrong when they believed that the subject of the appeal at the Upper Tribunal was the written decision, rather than the first oral decision.
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