Human rights arguments to be heard by court in Serco lock-change appeal

The human rights implications of Serco's lock-change policy will be outlined for the Court of Session today by the Scottish Human Rights Commission. 

The Commission's intervention in the case of Ali v Serco and the Home Secretary  will detail key human rights concerns based on its analysis of Serco's policy in relation to human rights laws.

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Commission, said:

"The Commission is concerned that Serco's lock-change policy breaches the right to private, home and family life protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998. Insufficient legal safeguards appear to be in place to make the policy compliant with human rights requirements. This includes a lack of impartial, independent review processes for decisions and a lack of oversight of how and by whom evictions are carried out.

"We are also concerned that those affected by this policy, who are already in a precarious and deeply vulnerable situation, face homelessness and destitution as a result of being forced from their homes. In our view, this may, in some circumstances, give rise to situations of inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998. It is all the more important to have independent oversight of evictions so that this can be avoided.

"Following normal eviction procedures in the Sheriff Court would, in our view, avoid these human rights concerns and give people an opportunity to make their case.

"This all sits in the context of a system of asylum appeals which is difficult to navigate, suffers from considerable delays and in which decisions are frequently overturned."

This is the first time the Commission has used its powers to intervene in civil litigation. Judith Robertson explained:

"Strengthening accountability for human rights breaches is a key priority for the Commission. In this case, there are serious human rights implications for the people affected. There is also a significant wider public interest in ensuring that governments and their contractors are held to account when they disregard their human rights obligations. We are therefore pleased to have intervened to assist the court in relation to the relevant human rights considerations."

Commenting on expected next steps, Judith Robertson said:

"We understand that the court will require some time to consider the arguments made by all parties in the case. While we await the court's judgment, we urge Serco to reconsider its decision to proceed with evictions."