Paul Keeley

Paul is a solicitor with over 15 years’ experience representing people in immigration and asylum matters.  He has been awarded Advanced Accreditation by the Law Society, a status that recognises a high level of understanding of immigration and asylum law and practice, held by only around 60 people nationally. 

Paul has a particular interest in criminal deportation cases, particularly in relation people who were failed by the State when in care, and people with serious mental health issues.   

In June 2016, Paul was appointed as an Independent Funding Adjudicator and an Independent Costs Assessor for the Ministry of Justice (and re-appointed in 2019), a role in which he adjudicates on disputes between legal aid lawyers and the Legal Aid Agency.  Based on his experience in these roles, Paul wrote a chapter in the Legal Aid Handbook 2020/21, Appeals to Independent Funding Adjudicators and Independent Costs Assessors, a book given a five-star review in the Law Society Gazette.  Paul has written for the 2022/23 edition of the book and is writing for the forthcoming edition. 

In 2017, Paul was appointed as an Independent Peer Reviewer for the Ministry of Justice, a role in which he assesses the quality of work carried out by immigration legal aid providers. Since 2022, he has been a senior peer reviewer. 

Through an independent peer review process, Paul’s work was assessed to be of “an extremely high standard”.  It was said that he “demonstrated an in depth legal expertise and detailed tactical and practical knowledge of the sector”,  and that he had an “expert understanding of the matters relevant to” clients’ cases.  His work was given the highest rating (‘Excellent’).  

Judges have referred to Paul’s “tenacious” conduct of appeals, another his “careful preparation”, and the same Judge said Paul is to “be commended for work done in preparing the appeals” on account of his “impressive professionalism”. 

In a complex deportation case, in which Paul made successful representations to the Home Office that a client was a victim of trafficking for the purposes of criminality, Paul’s letter of representations went before the Court of Appeal in a connected criminal appeal.  Lady Justice Simler DBE, giving judgment commented that “the content of those records has been helpfully and extensively summarised in the representations to the Home Office by the applicant’s solicitor, Sutovic and Hartigan [Paul’s place of work at the time of the letter], in support of an application for the applicant to be entered into the NRM and forms the basis of the summary account of the factual background we have given above.”: A, R. v [2020] EWCA Crim 1408. 

Karl’s case 

Paul took on Karl’s case at his previous place of employment, in mid-2016.  Karl had in excess of 40 convictions, including a sentence of five years’ imprisonment for possession of a class A drug with intent to supply, putting him in the category of the most serious offenders for the purposes of deportation, for which he needed to show “very compelling circumstances” over and above the exceptions to deportation set out in the Immigration Rules. He had never been granted leave to remain and, over the course of around a decade, had lost two deportation appeals, and failed in various other attempts to remain in the UK.  Within about one month of his taking in his case, Karl lost his most recent appeal (conducted by another solicitor), and not long after that he was placed on a flight to be deported to the country he had left as a young child.   

Karl had experienced unimaginable, horrific, prolonged and repeated childhood sexual abuse, and had been introduced to drugs and crime by his abusers, and he had been explaining this case consistently over many years.  Upon taking on his case, Paul identified what no other lawyer, Home Office official or Judge had noticed over the course of many years – that what he described amounted to modern slavery and/or trafficking.   

Paul gathered evidence of Karl’s abuse and his serious mental health issues, and obtained persuaded police officers to support his case against deportation.  This work enabled Karl to remain in the UK while two of his abusers were successfully prosecuted for the horrific crimes committed against him. One of the abusers was sentenced to life imprisonment. 

Karl’s deportation appeal was allowed, with the Judge accepted all of Karl’s account, including all of the abuse suffered, that the abuse contributed to his drug addiction and criminality, and that his removal would lead to a risk of Karl killing himself.  

When the Home Office granted Karl 30 months leave to remain (as is standard in such cases), Paul brought a successful judicial review, which was settled when the Home Office agreed to exceptionally grant him indefinite leave to remain in the UK.  

Andrew’s case 

Paul represented Andrew in a successful asylum appeal, first allowed in the First-tier Tribunal, dismissed in the Upper Tribunal, and finally settled in the Court of Appeal.  

Andrew, a man from Sierra Leone, who was facing removal in 2016 when Paul took on his case, had been unlawfully resident in the UK since 2000, and had convictions for robbery and possession of a bladed article.  

Andrew had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental health issues, and had been detained numerous times under the Mental Health Act 1983. Based on Andrew’s mental illness and the evidence that such people with mental illnesses are liable to be ill-treated in Sierra Leone, Paul made the case that Andrew was a refugee, arguing that mental illness is a protected characteristic under the Refugee Convention.  At the time there was not reported case-law on this issue.   

The case went to the Court of Appeal, where the Home Office conceded the case before the hearing, accepting that  mental illness is a protected characteristic under the Refugee Convention. 

Michael’s case 

Michael is a young man who, when he came to Paul, faced prosecution and a lengthy sentence having been found in possession of large amounts of crack cocaine and heroin, and he had over £3,000 in NHS debts, he was shortly due to be made homeless, and he faced deportation from the UK – somewhere he had lived since childhood, and where his siblings and children live.  Michael was very mentally unwell, suffering from depression and had made attempts to kill himself.    

Through taking detailed instructions and reading through extensive disclosure from various sources, Paul established that he had twice been the victim of modern slavery – the first time for domestic servitude during his childhood, and the second time by a criminal gang who groomed and coerced him into committing county lines drugs offences.   

After first securing accommodation and an income for Michael, and support in being able to see his children, based on the detailed instructions taken from Michael, Paul persuaded the Home Office that Michael had been a victim of trafficking as a child and, had he been identified as such on the first occasion, he may not have been a victim on the second occasion. Leading on from this, the CPS dropped the drugs prosecution (accepting he was a victim of crime), the Home Office granted him leave to remain, and the NHS dropped the debt he owed. Michael is now rebuilding his life in the UK and able to resume his life as a father to his children. 

Robert’s case 

Robert was a young man, who arrived in the UK aged 11, having travelled alone, fleeing persecution. His claim for asylum was rejected many years before coming to see Paul.  When Paul met him, he was a young man with a number of convictions, having just served some time in prison for a serious criminal office, his asylum claim had been rejected and, with no strong ties to the UK, he faced deportation to Afghanistan.  He was shortly due to be bailed to an area where the criminal gang operated. 

Towards the end of the first appointment with him, Robert disclosed to Paul that he had been taken advantage of by a criminal gang since his early teens, something he’d told social services and the Police about but no one had listened. 

Through a lengthy analysis of the papers and taking instructions from Robert, Paul was able to build a picture of someone who had been severely let down by social services – over many years, during a difficult childhood spent in care – Robert had repeatedly told social services that he was being groomed with drugs and alcohol to commit crimes.  Very unusually, the Home Office accepted Robert had been forced to commit crimes by a criminal gang, over several years. Nevertheless, they sought to deport him.   

Robert’s appeal was allowed, with the Tribunal accepting that, in light of social services failure to protect Robert from trafficking, there were “very compelling circumstances” such that his deportation would breach Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).  At an onward appeal, the Home Office accepted that Robert was a refugee, and also conceded his appeal under Article 4 of the ECHR (which includes the right to protection from trafficking) in recognition of the strength of his claim that deportation would breach his rights under Article 4 – as someone who had been trafficked he had a right to remain in the UK to recover from the long-term impact of his trafficking experiences.  

In the meantime, Robert was a risk in his community from the gang who had exploited him and from associates of a man who he gave evidence against in a murder trial.  Paul persuaded senior Police officers to offer Robert a form of witness protection, assisting him move addresses, and to support his claim to remain in the UK. 

As a result of Paul’s work in getting Robert recognised as a victim of trafficking, all but one of his convictions have been overturned. 

Harold’s case 

When Harold came to see Paul, he had recently lost an appeal against deportation, which had arisen following a conviction for possession with intent to supply Class B drugs, and a sentence of 39 months imprisonment.   

After taking on his appeal, Paul quickly identified that Harold had been a victim of child trafficking – he had been kept from school and exploited for the purposes of domestic servitude – before being finally taken into care by the local authority. 

Based on Paul’s work in Harold’s case, both the Home Office and Tribunal accepted that Harold suffered from depression as a result of several childhood traumas, including the trafficking and local authority’s failure to believe him. 

In allowing Harold’s appeal under Article 8 of the ECHR (regarding his personal ties to the UK), the Tribunal accepted that there had been a litany of failures by the Home Office and the local authority to provide Harold with the security and care he so needed during his childhood.  Allowing his appeal under Article 4 ECHR (which includes the right not to be subjected to trafficking), the Tribunal referred to the “continuing effect of [Harold]’s traumatic experiences in [his country of origin] and in the UK [which] has resulted in [Harold] suffering a major depressive disorder.” 

The Tribunal also allowed Harold’s appeal under Article 3 ECHR (the right to protection from inhuman and degrading treatment) owing to the risk that Harold would kill himself and be highly vulnerable on return to his country of origin.