Asylum advisers lose High Court claim

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A LEADING law firm which said it was given a raw deal when it lost out on lucrative legal aid contracts to advise immigrants in Rotherham has been told it has “only itself to blame”.

Parker Rhodes Hickmotts argued at the High Court it was the victim of “unfair” treatment after losing out to rivals in a bidding war for the three-year contracts.

Although it was awarded some immigration and asylum work after scoring just one point less than three rival firms in the Legal Services Commission tendering process in January last year, it was less than a quarter of the amount the firm had hoped for.

The reason the firm was docked a point was that the head of its immigration department, Amie Henshall, had not applied for a top level “advanced caseworker” accreditation.

Highly experienced Ms Henshall later applied for, and received, the accreditation, but it came too late to be taken into account.

Parker Rhodes Hickmotts argued it had been “under a disadvantage from the start”. It could never have been anticipated the award of a single point would have such a dramatic impact on the tendering process in South Yorkshire, it argued.

In the end, over three quarters of the available work in Rotherham and Wakefield was awarded to just two firms, neither of which employed an accredited “advanced caseworker” in South Yorkshire.

However, dismissing the firm’s challenge, Mr Justice McCombe rejected claims there had been no “level playing field”.

He concluded: “The claimant has only itself to blame for not taking the simple step of putting itself in a position of getting the additional point; it thereby lost out to others who took this simple precaution.

“It is not the court’s place to interfere.”