The limits of procedural discretion: Unequal treatment and vulnerability in Britain's asylum appeals
Social and Legal Studies
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Studies of procedural in-court judicial discretion have highlighted a dilemma between the imperative to reduce it owing to its potential misuse and preserve it owing to its importance in protecting vulnerable groups. This article offers a new framework with which to enter this debate and new quantitative empirical evidence that favours the former position over the latter. Drawing upon 240 in-person observations of Britain’s First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber), the article demonstrates that judicial discretionary behaviour that is either vulnerability-neutral, vulnerability-amplifying or correlated with extraneous factors outweighs vulnerability-redressing behaviour, despite the sensitivity of this particular jurisdiction and the guidelines that consequently exist for judges. These findings lend support to calls to limit judicial procedural discretion. The article concludes by offering some cost-effective suggestions about how to do so.
The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, grant number ES/J023426/1.
This is the final version of the article. Available from SAGE Publications via the DOI in this record.
Published online 28 July 2017