‘Unprecedented’: Tribunal slams celebrated blind judge over handling of 13 immigration cases in brutal judgment

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By Katie King on

Lawyers have never seen anything like it

Upper Tribunal, Field House, London

The Upper Tribunal has directed a vatful of criticism at a blind immigration judge, in a ruling a leading barrister working in the field has described as “unprecedented”.

Feeling the tribunal’s wrath was Judge Majid, full name Dr Amir Ali Majid, who is a reader in law and immigration adjudicator.

Appointed as a part-time immigration adjudicator 20 years ago, Majid was then the second only blind person elevated to the judiciary, having lost his sight while he was studying in Pakistan. Before then, he was a senior lecturer at the London Guildhall (a forerunner to London Metropolitan), against whom he notably brought a successful claim of racial discrimination.

The Upper Tribunal, hearing an appeal against 13 of Majid’s judgments, did note Majid’s blindness, but said it was no excuse. The tribunal said:

[I]t is not, and indeed cannot reasonably be, suggested that blindness prevents a person learning or applying law, or performing the crucial judicial tasks of hearing both sides and reaching, and expressing, a properly reasoned conclusion. It is failure in these areas that form the grounds of appeal we have to consider.

This is just one of many brutal soundbites featured in the judgment, made by three judges in the tribunal’s Immigration and Asylum Chamber. To give you a rundown, one of the grounds for the joint appeal is that First Tier Tribunal judge Majid’s decisions “frequently include assertions that insufficient reasons are given for even a well-informed reader to work out the reasons for the decision”. On this, the upper tribunal trio concluded:

[W]hoever wins the case can have no confidence that ‘the “legal requirements” stipulated by immigration law’ have been followed at all. It is not surprising that in a number of the appeals before us, the grounds of appeal focus on the inadequacy of reasons given. Parties to an appeal are entitled to know why they have won or lost.

In addition to this lack of judicial reasoning, Mr Ockelton, Judge O’Connor and Judge Smith noted: “No more than the most basic principles of law are referred to in the decisions [subject to the appeal], and even these seem to be quite often wrong.”

It didn’t take long, therefore, for the judges to decide that the judgments in question “wholly fail” to meet the standard expected. “[E]very one of the decisions under appeal shows error of law,” they said, “in most cases serious error, in most cases multiple serious errors. Whether the decisions are looked at together or separately, they show that nobody should assume that Judge Majid has an adequate knowledge of the law or of his task as a judge.” 

The judgment may sound unusually brutal in its substance and tone — and that’s because it is. Garden Court barrister Colin Yeo, an immigration law expert, said he’d “never seen anything like it”. He added:

I have never seen [the tribunal] link up several unrelated appeals like that for this sort of purpose and never seen that level of criticism of a judge.

In the past 24 hours, it has come to light the judiciary has received a complaint about Majid following the judgment. Legal Cheek has contacted Majid and asked for his comment on the judgment.

Read the full judgment here:

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