High Court rules government’s Windrush failings are unlawful

Home secretary’s decisions found to be unlawful in UNISON legal case

The government’s decision to scrap key recommendations from the independent review into the Windrush scandal was unlawful, the High Court has ruled today (Wednesday), says UNISON.

The court found Suella Braverman was “not justified” in breaking promises to create a migrants’ commissioner and boost the powers of the chief inspector for borders and immigration.

Both recommendations had come out of the Windrush Learned Lessons Review – overseen by Wendy Williams. They were to be the checks and balances to prevent something like Windrush from ever happening again.

But three years later, the then home secretary, keen to clear the way for the government’s controversial flights to Rwanda scheme, decided to remove any likely future opposition to the ‘stop the boats’ policy, says UNISON.

Ms Braverman ditched key proposals, despite her predecessor Priti Patel having previously accepted the Windrush findings in full, says UNISON.

Suella Braverman’s actions prompted the union to intervene in the case brought by Windrush victim Trevor Donald last year.

In today’s judgment, the High Court declared the secretary of state’s decision to get rid of Windrush recommendations nine and ten as unlawful. The judge said Ms Braverman failed to consult properly and could not justify the discriminatory impact upon Windrush victims.

The judge also said the then home secretary failed to comply with the public sector equality duty*, given the “adverse impact on migrants and future migrants more generally”.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The hostile environment had devastating consequences for those affected by the Windrush scandal.

“Rather than learning the lessons, the government’s response has been dire. Many people are still waiting for justice and migrant workers in the UK continue to fear the Home Office.

“The Windrush Review was set up to ensure such terrible miscarriages of justice could never happen again. All 30 of its recommendations were accepted by Priti Patel, the home secretary at the time.

“But Suella Braverman failed on promises made by her government. She decided she’d have no truck with anything or anyone that might stand in the way of putting migrants on flights to Rwanda. She cruelly ditched key recommendations that sought to right some of the many Windrush wrongs.

“No government is above the law. Thankfully the then home secretary’s been caught bang to rights. Ministers must treat all people with dignity and respect, and act with integrity.

“The hope is the next government will act quickly to make amends to this disgraceful chapter in our history.”

Notes to editors:
– The claimant in the judicial review, Trevor Donald, arrived in the UK in 1967, aged 12, and was granted indefinite leave to remain in 1971. But when he visited Jamaica in 2010 to attend his mother’s funeral, he was prevented from returning to the UK and exiled for nine years before the scandal finally came to light. He was challenging the decision of the then home secretary Suella Braverman in early 2023 to scrap key recommendations from the 30 made by the independent review into the Windrush scandal. These were a commitment to establish a migrants’ commissioner (recommendation 9), a strengthening of the powers of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (10), and the holding of reconciliation events for affected individuals and their families (3). The challenge to recommendation three was unsuccessful.
– UNISON’s application to the High Court was supported by evidence from UNISON member Michael Braithwaite, a London teaching assistant, who works with children with special educational needs. Michael lost his job due to the Windrush scandal, which he described as “a total nightmare that destroyed my life.” UNISON gave evidence at the judicial review over two days in late April 2023.
– On 21 June 2018, the then home secretary Sajid Javid commissioned Wendy Williams CBE as the independent adviser to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, which had been announced on 2 May 2018 as part of the response to Windrush. The review was published in March 2020. On 23 June 2020, Priti Patel, now home secretary, gave a statement to the House of Commons. In this, she acknowledged there had been “unspeakable injustices and institutional failings spanning successive governments over several decades”. Priti Patel apologised unreservedly for the pain, suffering and misery caused. She confirmed she would be accepting the recommendations in full. But on 26 January 2023, Suella Braverman decided to abandon three of these commitments. UNISON worked with Mr Donald’s lawyers and intervened to support his case with the Black Equity Organisation.
– The court held that the secretary of state’s decision to abandon recommendation 9 and 10 was unlawful because the secretary of state: failed to consult key stakeholders; could not justify the discriminatory effects of her decision on victims of the Windrush scandal, and failed to comply with the public sector equality duty.
– *The public sector equality duty means public authorities must think about whether people with protected characteristics will suffer any particular disadvantage. They should take action to meet these needs or reduce the inequalities.
– The judgment was handed down today (Wednesday) during UNISON’s annual conference in Brighton, which continues until Friday.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.High

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk