Two Windrush victims lose High Court compensation fights with Home Office

Two victims of the Windrush scandal have lost High Court battles with the Government over their level of compensation.

Surjit Kaur brought legal action against the Home Office over being denied a compensatory award for decades of lost work and benefits.

Ms Kaur, 82, who came to the UK from India in 1963, claimed she had not been given documentation to prove her lawful immigration status and fell into “abject poverty” with her six children.

Vernon Vanriel, 67, pursued a legal claim against the department over its alleged refusal to compensate him for a loss of benefits after he was wrongly prevented from re-entering the UK.

The ex-boxer and electrician, who came to the UK as a child in 1962, was “in poor mental health, unable to work, destitute and homeless” in the 10 years after he was denied permission to return from a visit to Jamaica in 2008, the court was told.

Ms Kaur was granted £40,000 under an “impact on life” award after she applied to the Windrush Compensation Scheme, but the Government later said she had not provided evidence of being rejected from jobs due to a lack of documentation.

Mr Vanriel received just over £103,500 under the scheme and was offered an award of £29,250 in relation to his homelessness, but Home Office lawyers said he had “no entitlement” to compensation for loss of benefits.

In two separate rulings issued over the past week, judges rejected both individuals’ bids for more compensation.

Mr Justice Henshaw was told at a hearing in London in February that after Ms Kaur came to the UK to join her husband, he had died and she had to sell their home to support her family.

She claimed to have lacked support from the Government and lived her life as an “outcast”.

Ms Kaur told a caseworker she was “forced to live a miserable life with no financial support… without enough heating or lighting” and that she sat with her children in rooms “lit by candlelight”.

She described being “huddled up together” as they could only afford to heat one room and said life was “akin to life in the Victorian era”.

Ms Kaur claimed to have been rejected from jobs due to being unable to prove her immigration status and that when showing her Indian passport at job centres she was told she was ineligible for benefits.

But in a ruling on Friday, the judge rejected her claim, saying there was “no failure lawfully to assess her evidence and no flaw” in an earlier review of her case and that her award was “not irrational nor otherwise unlawful”.

Mr Vanriel returned to the UK in September 2018 and received a personal apology from former home secretary Priti Patel over the “shameful” injustice and hardship suffered by him and other members of the Windrush generation.

He won a separate High Court challenge over the Home Office’s refusal to grant him British citizenship following his return to the UK in December 2021.

Arriving aged six, he lived in the UK continuously from 1962 until 2005, starting his own electrician business and becoming an “accomplished boxer” who rose to “number two in Britain and fighting at the Royal Albert Hall”.

In July 2005 he visited his youngest son in Jamaica but was refused re-entry to the UK three years later, leaving him stranded and destitute in Jamaica.

At another hearing in February, Mr Justice Griffiths was told he was forced to live in shelters, including a disused chicken coop and an abandoned grocery shack without electricity or a bathroom.

Mr Vanriel’s lawyers said he had received incapacity benefit, income support and disability living allowance before leaving the UK, and was eligible for benefits on his return years later.

They said his September 2021 acceptance of a “full and final” settlement of his compensation claim did not prevent him bringing further claims for more money.

But in a ruling issued on April 28, the judge concluded that by accepting the settlement Mr Vanriel “agreed that his claim was at an end”.

Mr Justice Griffiths said it was an “abuse of process for (Mr Vanriel) to pursue a claim for judicial review in respect of an award under the scheme which he has accepted in full and final settlement and been paid”.