Saturday, 9 January 2016

My last case and Robyn's first.

For the last year we've had to keep a big secret from you - we've been fighting a life or death legal battle to stay together but we couldn't say anything about it for fear that my Blog could prejudice our case.

Last January Robyn had to apply for a visa to stay in the UK but we didn't really stand a chance of getting one because we hadn't been together long enough.

In March last year we heard that her application had been refused by the Home Office. It was a terrible time - apart from anything else I was very ill with multiple collapsed vertebrae only I didn't know about it at the time.

We had no idea what we would do or where we could go.

With no knowledge of Immigration Law we had to put together a valid legal appeal and then wait for a tribunal date.

By April I was an emergency patient in hospital and we had the news that not only was the Home office refusing her visa application but they were also applying for Robyn to be deported.

It was a really desperate time - whatever happened we could not be separated. 

We looked at all the alternatives and there really was no 'Plan B'.

I had no idea whether I could even get into America to be with her (I probably couldn't) and the only real hope was to try to find a third country where they speak English, I could get some medical treatment and they would allow both of us in to be together for the time I had left......gulp!

Even worse, Robyn's passport was seized so we couldn't do anything or go anywhere; I'd been hoping to have a holiday abroad.

In the summer I thought I'd cracked it - we were going to go to the Channel Islands for the day because they didn't need a passport. Unfortunately when I checked they still needed ID and the Home Office had seized Robyn's passport.....we couldn't go anywhere.

It was a real low point.

We spoke to our witnesses and everybody was very helpful.

We had lots of support.  

We asked Dr Feelgood from Charing Cross Hospital to prepare a medical report for us;  she was very kind and didn't even charge for it.

We wrestled with all the documents and forms.

Our hearing date was set for December 14th which seemed a lifetime away but it came round so quickly.

Whenever I used to write about how tough things were, you have no idea how hard it really was; on November 26th I went into hospital for a kidney operation.

It was keyhole surgery and I should have been out in a day or so but in fact this was to be my home for a week;

We needed to finalise our statements and we had to go through all the documents, prepare the 'bundles' (bound and indexed multiple copies) for the court and The Home Office.

There were legal time limits to keep to.

Meanwhile I was stuck in bed in a room with locked windows and the heating on maximum.....and my kidneys weren't working.

Worse, I had a tube coming out of my left kidney leading to a bag because we couldn't stop the bleeding. This is what I had to carry around with me all week;

Then it got even worse - Robyn had an unbelievable journey to see me every day - at least 2 hours each way by buses and trains. She struggled in with my computer but I found that the hospital Wi-Fi had completely messed up my machine so that I couldn't even open the Word files of our court documents.


The clock was ticking.

Robyn struggled in with her computer because we found that I could still e-mail the unopened files to her and she could open them on her machine so that we could work on them from my hospital bed.

We sat there writing statements and preparing our files. This was fairly traumatic stuff too - the last four years have been really hard.

Robyn then took all the documents to our local newsagent and used their photocopier at 5p a sheet- it would probably have been cheaper to buy a copier of our own if we could have done so.

Here are our files; our whole lives set out for the court;

A week before the hearing we went to the tribunal building to watch cases so that we knew what to expect.

After a morning of all that we certainly realised how serious it all was.

I began to doubt whether it had been a good idea to represent ourselves - there's an old saying that "if you represent yourself you have a fool for a client".

Now I may have been a lawyer but I know nothing about Immigration Law while Robyn's only experience of the law was when she did a 'Mock Trial' at school.

I knew that wasn't going to help.

Even worse, after 25 years as a local lawyer I didn't know of a single reputable Immigration Lawyer we could get to and no one we knew could recommend one either. There are a lot of people out there exploiting vulnerable people and not doing a very good job for them. After a morning in Court watching, there were a couple we saw we didn't want representing us.

We just had to bite the bullet and get on with it.

Besides, if we were going to appeal all the way we needed every penny for later on.

And if I didn't know much, I knew that the law was never going to be on our side - the only hope was our story, our love. The only people who could tell that story properly were Robyn and me - we were going to tell our own story and we were going to do it all ourselves.

We got there early on the 14th December and that wasn't much fun;

But we had help; Martin and Sue from our Jazz Club came as witnesses and Robyn's vicar came to give her moral support (not much use to me though!).

Robyn had planned out everything she was going to say and then didn't get a chance to say it. I'd hoped to give my evidence first and then be able to help her - the Judge put paid to that.

So Counsellor Robyn G. May was on her own in court with me trying to look through the window without being noticed to see what was going on!

You have no idea how proud I am of her.

We were lucky; the Home office representative was professional and fair and the Judge listened to all our evidence very carefully.

All that was left was the very long wait for a decision; because of Christmas two weeks turned into three.....we were getting more and more frantic every day.

And then today we went out for a coffee and came home in the afternoon to find the decision lying on the mat.

Those were a terrible few moments until we worked out what had happened;

We won and the Judge awarded us the £140 court costs we'd paid. We'll do something special with that, I promise you.

The Home Office has a fortnight to appeal, we're hoping they won't. Our case is probably unique to us, I can't see a legal reason why they would need to but we are ready.

It's been a huge, huge struggle and I would have loved to record it as it happened here - so in a way my Blog has only been half the story over the last year.

Bitter experience taught me that people do read this stuff and I've had it used against me in the past.

So, this time it had to be a secret until now.

You have no idea what a relief it's been - the stress has been terrible and if everything had gone wrong I would have been rushing up to town trying to find a very expensive lawyer and Robyn would have been.........well..........packing up her stuff.

Would we have gone on the run? A few years ago yes I would have but it's a bit difficult now with advanced cancer, a dodgy kidney, a broken back etc etc.

As it is we can enjoy the time we have left together as well as a chance to put something back into this society that gave us both a second chance.

Here's to second chances!

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Contact me:

No comments:

Post a Comment