The Limits of Procedural Discretion: Unequal Treatment and Vulnerability in Britain's Asylum Appeals

Nick Gill*, Rebecca Rotter, Andrew Burridge, Jennifer Allsopp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
86 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-78
Number of pages30
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • administrative law
  • appeals
  • asylum seekers
  • discretion
  • equal treatment
  • extraneous
  • judicial behaviour
  • procedural justice
  • procedure
  • tribunals


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