16 Mar 2017, 12 mins ago

UK based human rights organisation Freedom from Torture has released a new report that shows a systemic failure of Asylum caseworkers to correctly implement Home Office policy with regards to assessing Asylum claims where torture is alleged. 

In ‘Proving Torture, Demanding the Impossible: Home Office Mistreatment of Expert Medical Evidence,’ Freedom From Torture reviewed 50 cases where medico-legal reports documenting physical and psychological evidence of torture were provided and examined how the reports were applied by Asylum caseworkers.  

In 100% of cases reviewed, the caseworker had failed to apply the correct standard of proof (“reasonably likely”) to the Asylum claim, instead demanding a far higher standard of proof. This included requiring medical experts to categorically attribute injuries to torture; a level of certainty that, in the world of forensic medicine, is unusual. 

In 84% of cases reviewed, the caseworker dismissed medical evidence because they had already reached a negative credibility finding. This approach is in contravention of the Home Office’s policy that expert medical evidence should be considered carefully and decisions on credibility must not be reached before all evidence is fully considered.

In 74% of cases reviewed, the caseworker substituted the expert advice of the clinician with their own speculation, treating the medical evidence as an obstacle to be overcome in order to refuse the Asylum claim.

In 54% of cases reviewed the caseworker failed to have regard for the procedures outlined in the Istanbul protocol, which lays out a set of internationally recognised standards for the effective examination of allegations regarding torture. 

In 30% of cases reviewed, the caseworker disputed the findings of the medical expert or questioned the expert’s qualifications and/or expertise.

In the light of these findings, Freedom from Torture makes a two-fold recommendation to the Home Secretary. Firstly, to implement the full day training module that the Home Office developed but never launched, so that all caseworkers are bought up to speed on best practice. Secondly, that an independent public audit be undertaken into the application in practice of the standard of proof in Asylum claims.