Lawyer for Windrush victims warns of compensation deficits and unfair exclusions
A compensation scheme has been announced by Home Secretary Sajid Javid today to help those affected by the Windrush scandal.
Posted on 03 April 2019
A human rights lawyer currently investigating potential legal action against the Government on behalf of over 30 victims of the Windrush scandal has warned of potential compensation deficits, unfair exclusions and lack of support available for those trying to access the compensation scheme announced by Home Secretary Sajid Javid today.
Jamie Beagent, head of human rights at law firm Leigh Day, said while the creation of the scheme was to be welcomed and included a number of positive changes raised in the consultation, there were also a number of points of concern. For example, compensation payments are to be made in accordance with a rigid framework which seems to exclude many consequential losses suffered by victims, such as indebtedness and loss of career progression. Other losses are expressly excluded or restricted such as passport applications and legal fees. In general the range of tariffs are low in comparison to those which might be obtained in a Court claim for compensation. Most strikingly, there is a proposal to reduce payments where an individual has not “mitigated their loss” by trying to resolve their position with the Home Office, which seems to punish those most excluded from society and in fear of the immigration authorities.
Mr Javid launched the compensation scheme for those affected by the Windrush scandal, including families of those who were affected and have since died. Mr Javid admitted that the scandal was a “terrible mistake and it should never have happened”.
Mr Javid confirmed that the compensations scheme is not only open to those of Caribbean origin but also commonwealth citizens settled in the UK before 1973 and those of any nationality who have a right of abode or settled status or are now British citizens who arrived to live in the UK before 31 December 1988. The compensation scheme has no caps on the amount that a person can claim and the government has estimated it will cost around £200 million.
The Windrush Generation immigrants, who arrived pre-1973, acquired an automatic indefinite right to remain without the need for documents. However, the hostile environment policy devised by the Home Office to implement the provisions of the 2014 Immigration Act has left many from the Windrush Generation, and others, unable to comply with its onerous documentation requirements. As a result they have suffered deportation, detention, restrictions on movement and location, deprivation of benefits or denial of access to health and other services.
Leigh Day has been investigating a potential group claim against the government on behalf of those who are part of the Windrush generation but legal action has been on hold to wait for the government to announce details of its promised compensation scheme. Leigh Day will now consider each of its clients’ cases against the criteria of the scheme to determine the best way forward for each individual.
Jamie Beagent, a human rights lawyer at Leigh Day currently investigating potential legal action against the Government on behalf of over 30 victims of the Windrush scandal said:
“The compensation scheme today is a positive step forward in righting the terrible wrongs of the government in this scandal. However, given the already unacceptable delay in setting up the scheme it is important that claims are resolved as quickly as possible without prejudicing full and fair consideration – the government must apply sufficient resources to the operation of the Scheme or else further damage will be done to the affected communities.
“There are some positive changes in the final scheme from those proposed in the consultation paper. However, on first reading there are also a number of points of concern, most worryingly is the fact that the government proposes to reduce payments where an individual has not mitigated their loss. That seems to me extraordinary in circumstances where many of those affected were pushed to the margins of society and put in a position of fear of the authorities. To punish those who were too removed from society or too afraid to approach the Home Office seems extremely unfair and unfeeling to me.
“We will now work with our clients to consider the scheme against their own personal circumstances and the losses they have suffered.”