In general, a litigant in judicial review proceedings is not entitled to redact, on the ground of relevance, the identities of officials in such disclosure. This means that the Home Office should not redact the information about caseworkers in a judicial review. Routinely the names of civil servants outside the Senior Civil Service would be redacted in most claims of judicial review, with names of a large number of caseworkers being hidden. This leads to uncertainty about the approach to redaction rules.

 

Recently, the judgment of R (oao IAB & others) v SSHD reconfirmed the approach in relation to the redaction of the identities of officials in disclosed documents in the context of judicial review proceedings. Let’s analyse this case and the impact it has on whether the identities of Home Office caseworkers can be redacted.

 

Background

 

IAB is an interim judgment arising from judicial review proceedings challenging the Levelling Up Secretary’s decision to introduce regulations affecting asylum-seeker accommodation. If the regulations take effect, certain premises used by the SSHD (the SSHD) for asylum claimants will be exempt from housing regulations. This aims to increase available accommodation for asylum claimants and reduce reliance on hotels for the purpose.

 

The claimants in IAB challenged the SSHD’s policy regarding the regulations. In resisting the claim, the SSHD presented disclosure containing redacted documents, with an explanation for some redactions. Specifically, the SSHD stated that the names of junior officials were redacted based on relevance. The SSHD submitted that names of civil servants outside the Senior Civil Service fall outside the candour obligation and can be removed from all disclosable documents on grounds of relevance.

 

This could raise concerns related to transparency and the impact on public trust. This is because it could be argued that the routine redaction of caseworkers’ names, particularly those outside the Senior Civil Service, may hinder the public’s ability to fully understand the caseworkers involved in government actions.

 

In this background, the redaction of civil servants’ names emerged as a key issue in the court proceedings.

 

Judgement of R (oao IAB & others) v SSHD

 

 

In court, the judge deliberated on the permissibility of the SSHD routinely redacting names of civil servants outside the Senior Civil Service from documents disclosed in judicial review proceedings. The judge’s discussion is outlined below:

 

The judge emphasized the importance of the Duty of Candor in judicial review proceedings. According to the guiding principle in such proceedings, absent of good reason to the contrary, redaction on grounds of relevance alone ought to be confined to clear situations where the information redacted does not concern the decision under challenge. However, the names the SSHD sought to protect were not in this class, and those civil servants outside of the senior civil service did not enjoy any reasonable expectation of confidentiality. As such, the names of caseworkers should not routinely be redacted from disclosable documents.

 

In addition, the routine practice of redacting documents contradicts the purpose of ensuring public authorities provide clear reasoning for challenged decisions. The SSHD’s argument for widespread redaction was deemed impractical and raised concerns about transparency and public confidence.

 

In conclusion, the judge ordered that there was no sufficient reason, either from general considerations or the circumstances of the case, to warrant redaction of the names of caseworkers from disclosable documents.

 

The judge directed the SSHD to re-serve the disclosure without redactions.

 

Our thoughts

 

This judgment serves as a useful reminder that litigants in judicial review proceedings are not entitled to redact the identities of caseworkers in disclosed documents on the basis of relevance. However, the judgement does not solely apply to Home Office caseworkers. All defendants, including the central government, local authorities, and other public authorities, must follow this judgment and apply it when providing documents under the duty of candour.

 

For the public, it gives them the right to know who is handling cases and to hold individuals to account where necessary. When the public knows that cases are being handled by experienced and professional caseworkers, it reduces suspicion and mistrust about the fairness of the judicial process. All in all, this helps to create a fairer and more trustworthy legal environment.

 

Have questions? Get in touch today!

 

Call us on 020 7928 0276, phone calls are operating as usual and we will be taking calls from 9:30am to 6:00pm.

 

Email us on info@lisaslaw.co.uk.

 

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