Events & Speakers | Posted 08.05.2014

Judge J.R.A Hanratty, OS, gave a wide-ranging and interesting talk about his work as an Immigration Judge this week, outlining the complex issues surrounding immigration control, the benefits and risks of immigration in large numbers and the judicial and political constraints which govern court decisions.

He began by saying that immigration is the ‘lifeblood’ of this nation, enriching its economic, cultural, scientific, legal and military life. But if a country is to choose who it takes, immigration needs to be controlled by means of a system which is workable, predictable and fair.

100,000 people apply for asylum in the UK each year; Her Majesty’s government is obliged by the 1951 convention relating to refugees to consider each case. Many appellants are genuinely fleeing from persecution and it is important to be kind, fair and compassionate, he said. Some, however, are not, and being kind does not mean being naïve; he is confronted with many fake documents and blatant deception as thousands of desperate people give their life savings to corrupt lawyers.

Judge Hanratty outlined some of the jurisdiction which governs his decisions, such as article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which states that no-one shall be subject to torture, inhumane treatment or punishment; article 8 outlines the individual’s right to family life. The obligations, he said, are absolute and there are no exceptions, as exemplified by the recent case of Abu Hamza.

As well as balancing national security with people’s human rights, immigration judges also have to balance the needs of the individual with those of the community: it is undoubtedly the case that immigration places an additional strain on the education system (with around 30 languages being spoken in some schools, for example), on health care and on council housing. Courts therefore also have to be sensitive to the needs of the state.

Judge Hanratty deals with 3 cases a day, producing, on average, a 20-page document for each: justice is not done if it is not clear to each side why one has lost and the other has won. It is important, he said, to take time and care over each case to get it right, and to be decisive in making proportionate judgements, mindful that the consequences for the appellant and his family can be dire.

In summary, Judge Hanratty said that a nation is judged by how it treats immigrants ; not with bigotry or prejudice but with compassion, respect and justice.

We are immensely grateful to Judge Hanratty for coming to Stonyhurst to talk about his work. All who attended enjoyed this fascinating insight into the many complex considerations which govern his decision-making when presiding over immigration cases.

Judge J.R.A Hanratty, RD, left Stonyhurst in 1964. Educated at The College of Law, he became a solicitor and then worked in the Lord Chancellor’s Department for 20 years, becoming a legal advisor to The Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords, and Chief Executive of the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand. He had two spells in Hong Kong of 10 years in total, becoming the Senior Legal Adviser to The Government on the handover of Hong Kong to China. He has been an immigration Judge from 1998 to the present day, at one time being the President of The Council of Immigration Judges for the UK. He joined the Royal Naval Reserve in 1971 as an Ordinary Seaman, and retired Lieutenant Commander in 1993 (Reserve Decoration RD). He is currently President of the Stonyhurst Association.