State seeks appeal-case costs from top asylum solicitor
Published 28/08/2010 | 05:00
THE Government is seeking to make a leading asylum law solicitor personally liable for the costs of at least two refugee appeal actions.
The 'wasted costs' orders are being sought against James Watters, the principal of Dublin law firm James Watters & Co which specialises in immigration law.
The wasted costs application comes as the High Court begins to hold special sittings to clear a backlog of more than 600 asylum appeals.
On Wednesday, High Court Judge Ms Justice Maureen Clark refused to allow the law firm to "come off record" -- or cease representing a number of its clients -- after hearing that the firm had not been in contact with one asylum seeker since August 2008 even though an affidavit grounding her appeal had been filed in October of that year.
In another case, the firm did not know if an asylum seeker, whose case was due to be heard later this year, was still in the country.
They had not received instructions despite efforts to contact the client.
Lawyers for the State told the court they intended to seek to make Mr Watters personally liable for the costs of the actions as the Government had incurred "unnecessary costs" in circumstances where the asylum seekers had gone under the radar or were not in a position to give instructions in relation to their case.
Last night, Mr Watters told the Irish Independent that it would be inappropriate to discuss the State's application to strike out the cases and seek their costs as the matter was still before the courts.
The costs application will be fully defended by Mr Watters.
The issue of 'wasted costs' and the personal liability, if any, to be borne by Mr Watters, will come before another judge next month when a team of High Court judges will sit throughout September to clear a 663-case backlog in asylum appeals.
Last year, 92 challenges were lodged against decisions made by the Office of the Refugees Applications Commissioner (ORAC); 300 against decisions by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal;-- and a further 270 challenges made on foot of decisions to repatriate were lodged in the High Court.
The cost of housing asylum seekers and their legal costs was €86.5m last year, according to the Department of Justice.
The Government is seeking to overhaul the asylum law process and streamline it with the introduction of a new immigration bill.
The bill aims to reduce the lengthy and costly process between applications, appeals if cases are rejected and subsequent applications for High Court judicial reviews.
Separately, it has emerged that 70 asylum seekers housed at Mosney have been told they must move from the centre by Tuesday, and transfer to Hatch Hall in Dublin.