Government acted unlawfully on broken Windrush promises, High Court rules

Former home secretary Suella Braverman (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)
Former home secretary Suella Braverman (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)

Suella Braverman’s decision to scrap key recommendations on the Windrush scandal when Home Secretary was unlawful, the High Court has ruled.

The government was taken to court by Windrush victim Trevor Donald, 68, after it failed to deliver all the recommendations from an independent review.

Solicitor Wendy Williams published her Windrush Lessons Learned Review in 2020 and all 30 recommendations were originally accepted by then-home secretary Priti Patel.

But Mrs Braverman, after taking the top job at the Home Office, ditched the promises to create a migrants’ commissioner, increase the powers of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, and hold reconciliation events.

Delivering her ruling on Mr Donald’s judicial review challenge, Mrs Justice Heather Williams found Mrs Braverman had acted unlawfully by abandoning the promised commissioner and increased powers to the chief inspector.

“There was a procedural legitimate expectation that the Defendant would consult with relevant stakeholders, including representatives of the Windrush community, and with Wendy Williams, before substantially changing the response to (the recommendations)”, ruled the judge.

“The Defendant breached this expectation.”

The judge is set to hear further arguments later on the consequences of her ruling.

The Windrush scandal – which campaigners have since said should be known as the Home Office scandal – erupted in 2018 when British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, were wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation despite having the right to live in Britain.

It is six years since the scandal of how the Windrush generation had been treated was exposed (Kendall Brown/PA) (PA Wire)
It is six years since the scandal of how the Windrush generation had been treated was exposed (Kendall Brown/PA) (PA Wire)

Many lost homes and jobs, and were denied access to healthcare and benefits.

Mr Donald, who was born in Jamaica in 1955, arrived in the UK in 1967 and lived here for the next 43 years.

Having visited Jamaica in 2010, he was refused entry when he attempted to return to the UK and at that point, his lawyers state, he became a Windrush victim.

He was eventually allowed to re-enter the UK following the emergence of the scandal in 2018 and was recognised as having indefinite leave to remain, before being granted British citizenship in January 2022.

Trade union Unison, which supported the judicial review claim alongside the Black Equity Organisation (BEO), said Mrs Braverman took the steps she did 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”.

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

“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 keyrecommendations that sought to right some of the many Windrush wrongs.”

The union is calling on the next government to honour the pledges of the independent review after the results of the General Election are known.