As a professional lawyer, in my line of work I inevitably come across many issues, including both sensitive and complicated cases.
However, until now I have never come across an accusation of witchcraft or black magic, or heard of it entering a courtroom in Britain and being allowed to be used in the proceedings.
Yes, an accusation made against a client, saying she knew how to use black magic in order to change people’s minds, was taken into account by a judge sitting at an Immigration Tribunal, in March 2017.
The client is an immigrant woman with a British child, and her case was listed for her immigration appeal hearing against the Home Office’s refusal of her application for leave to remain in the UK. Her application was based on her family and her private life, under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
Article 8 states: “Everyone has the right to respect for his of her private and family life, home and correspondence,” with the article also providing the right to respect for one’s established family life, which includes any “stable relationship, be it married, engaged, or de facto; between parents and children; siblings; grandparents and grandchildren etc.”
On the day of the hearing, the client (the appellant) appeared in court along with her witnesses and her baby, being legally represented by our firm.
We had a conference with the client prior to being called into court, during which we took instructions about the breakdown of her marriage, her relationship with her parents, and her family life with her sister and other family members in the UK.
We advised our client of the relevant case law, informing her that if it was accepted that she is the sole carer of her British child, her appeal should be successful, as per case law Zambrano – The Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 8 March 2011. (The Judgement Gerardo Ruiz Zambrano v Office national de l’emploi (ONEm).)
My client’s case was called shortly before 11 a.m with immigration Judge (x) to hear the matter, being advised that there were no presenting officers for the respondents – the Home Office – and that there was no explanation provided by them either.
The court notice sent to all parties – well in advance – clearly states: “If either parties do not attend the hearing, the hearing will proceed in their absence.” Therefore, the hearing was to continue as normal, regardless of their absence.
The client told the judge she was confident to give witness in English, and therefore did not require an interpreter.
However, just as the hearing was set to go ahead, the judge presented two letters from my client’s ex-husband, who was making groundless accusations of her having the knowledge of black magic in order to cheat people.
One letter reads: “She is a very bad, harmful person with bad intentions for her own greed through black magic, which she learnt from a imam in Bangladesh,” before going on to add, “changing people’s minds is a business of her and has deceived a lot of people including me through black magic.”
The letters go on to make further accusations that the client’s six-month-old baby is not safe: “It is not safe for the baby to be with her. This is due to her knowing how to do black magic.” Her ex-husband then goes on to suggest that as a result, the client should not be allowed to stay in the UK.
The client is a single mother who has been bringing up her baby on her own since birth, and we submitted this evidence to both the court and the respondents accordingly.
The HM Courts & Tribunal Service had these letters accusing my client of black magic on file six months prior to this hearing and accordingly these should have been sent to parities concerned well before the hearing date. However, they failed to provide these to the relevant parties until the day of the hearing.
We have argued, on behalf of the client, that these two letters are nothing more than “unfound, malicious and slanderous gossip, defamatory without a shred of evidence” and that they “should be excluded from this case”.
Unfortunately the judge was clearly set in her ways, insisting that the hearing be adjourned for further investigations and for the Home Office to make comments. The judge justified her decision to adjourn the case based on these groundless accusation which she claims to be in the ‘best interests of the child’.
The client was both shocked and bewildered at the judge’s decision, stating in confusion: “I can’t believe the judge – does she think I am a witch then?” before further adding, “I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.”
The client was left to re-appear and pay further legal fees due what is a “ludicrous reasons for the decision of the Tribunal Judge” (something the charity organisation helping the client agrees with), with the client’s support worker at Women’s Aid saying, “The more I learn about our judicial system the UK, the more I lose faith in them, every day.”
Despite this groundless accusation of black magic and number of other failures by the Tribunal Services, which seems to be very common nowadays, the Home Office have decided to withdraw from the appeal and granted the client Leave to Remain as applied.