The Home Office has been accused of creating a money making venture by imposing “informal”
fines on firms which unwittingly hired illegal workers.
The claim was suggested during a civil court case stemming from raids on two Indian
cuisine restaurants in Stornoway.
The linked family businesses contest a £25,000 penalty and the final stages of the
appeal was heard via a three-way video link between Stornoway and Inverness sheriff
courts as well as Parliament House in Edinburgh.
Eight illegal workers from Bangladesh were arrested following an immigration enforcement
raid on two premises in Stornoway in October 2013.
Four men were arrested at the Bangla Spice. One, aged 26, had overstayed his visa,
a 33-year-old had entered the country illegally, while two, aged 23 and 24, were
found to have entered the country by deception, said the Home Office at the time.
Officers moved on to Balti House in the town’s South Beach Street, where they arrested
another four men aged between 21 and 45 years who were claimed to have overstayed
Stornoway Sheriff Court previously heard some had fake passports and at least one
had since absconded.
The Home Office ultimately imposed a civil fine over a number of the workers.
Advocate Stewart Buchanan, representing the eateries, said penalty notices served
on the island restaurant owners were “inept and invalid.”
He highlighted Bangla Spice was penalised under section 16 of the Immigration Act
2006 yet that section "does not empower anyone to issue any penalties."
the penalty notice was not valid on a second count because an "informal" discount
was offered under a "faster payment option" despite no such provision existing in
the rules, he said.
Mr Buchanan maintained: "Somebody has invented a means of getting money into the
exchequer without statutory authority.”
He suggested this was "to extend the rule of law well beyond its bound.”
The advocate said there were "seriousness of errors in the original decision" to
penalise the restaurants and they should not be "liable for a penalty imposed by
"Because of the nature of the errors” the only disposal open to the court is to cancel
the penalty, he said.
For the Home Office, advocate Julius Komorowski stated: The
penalty notice is the serving of the decision - it is not the decision itself.”
He stressed there is nothing in the immigration law which requires the actual section
of the act to be specified.
Sheriff David Sutherland will deliver his verdict on a later date.
Stornoway restaurants appeal against immigration raid fines
19 January 2017
The case stems from an immigration raid in Stornoway