14 October 2020
The Court of Appeal has delivered a judgment in PN (Uganda) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1213 regarding unlawful detention under the Detained Fast Track system, which indicates that a fact sensitive approach must be adopted to each case. This judgment is likely to be particularly relevant in giving guidance to practitioners whose client has previously lost an appeal under the Detained Fast Track Rules who are considering or working on claims for damages for unlawful detention.
In July 2015 the Court of Appeal declared that the Detained Fast Track system, which provided strict time limits for preparing appeals alongside mandatory detention, was unlawful. This was primarily because “the time limits are so tight as to make it impossible for there to be a fair hearing of appeals in a significant number of cases” (, per Lord Dyson). It did not, however, say what would happen to appeals that had been decided under this system, where wrong results may have been reached owing to this unfair procedure.
In R (TN (Vietnam)) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 2838 (‘TN (Vietnam)’), the Court of Appeal answered this question. Lord Justice Singh emphasised that whether a First-tier Tribunal decision must be quashed owing to unfairness will be a matter of fact based on how far the Detained Fast Track Rules touched on the decision. The Court of Appeal in PN (Uganda) summarised the principles established in TN (Vietnam) as follows:
35. … (1) a high degree of fairness was required in the proceedings; (2) the 2005 DFT Rules created an unacceptable risk of unfairness in a significant number of cases; (3) there was no presumption that the procedure was fair or unfair; (4) finality in litigation was important; and (5) a long delay in locating what was said to be critical evidence might suggest that the unfairness in the 2005 DFT Rules did not make the proceedings in the FTT unfair. The Court noted at paragraph 90 that whether the proceedings were in fact unfair and liable to be set aside would “depend on a careful assessment of the individual facts”.
The decision in PN (Uganda) provides a helpful application of these principles.
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