The High Court has dismissed a claim for judicial review of a paid settlement sum of £103,501.21 under the Windrush Compensation Scheme on the grounds of abuse of process as the amount offered by the government had already been accepted before pursuing the judicial review. The case is Vernon Vanriel v The Adjudicator’s Office & Anor  EWHC 925 (Admin).
Mr. Vanriel was born in Jamaica in 1956, and came to the UK when he was 6 years old. He lived in the UK continuously for 43 years, until 2005, when he broke his residence and, like many of the Windrush Generation, was refused re-entry in September 2008 despite his right to live in the UK. He had been absent from the UK for more than two years and was not able to prove that he had first entered the UK before 1973. Mr Variel lived abroad, away from his two children, until the Windrush Scandal became public. His 13 years in exile were spent in Jamaica, mostly destitute.
Mr. Vanriel is one of the few that claimed compensation under the Windrush Compensation Scheme. He claimed compensation based on five grounds; immigration and legal fees incurred by him, denial of access to services, homelessness as a result of refusal to enter the UK, impact on the his life due to the inability to return to the UK (such as family separation, mental health, etc), and a discretionary award for loss of benefits he claimed he was entitled to during his absence.
In 2021, Mr Vanriel was paid £103,501.21, and signed a disclaimer accepting the sum as “full and final settlement for the claim”. After accepting payment, the claimant applied for judicial review.
The Windrush Compensation Scheme rules set out grounds for reducing or declining to make a monetary award, including for double recovery in certain scenarios.
The 2021 determination of the award was made by a caseworker on of the three of the five grounds Mr Vanriel proposed (immigration and legal fees, denial of access to services, and impact on life). Nothing was awarded for loss of benefits or homelessness.
The Mr Vanriel’s solicitors proposed to settle for £241,294.31 in the alternative. The additional sum was based on a £100,000 claim for homelessness and an additional £37,793 in relation to loss of benefits.
These requests were rejected, and the settlement amount stayed at £103,501.31. Mr. Vanriel was given the option to, again, accept payment as full settlement or he could request a further review. If he were to undertake further review, the Secretary of State informed him that there would be no payment in the interim.
Mr Vanriel requested an additional £20,000 on top of the previous claims for homelessness and loss of access to benefits for mismanagement of the compensation scheme. He also asked for speedy decision-making, especially in light of there not being interim payments. The decision was delayed, and after the request to pay out at the minimum undisputed amount of £103,502.31 was denied, Mr Vanriel accepted the original offer.
He then filed a judicial review claim arguing that he felt he had no choice but to accept the initial settlement amount due to his weak financial situation. The claim form was issued in December 2021, after which the Home Office announced changes to the Compensation Scheme in relation to homelessness. The previous refusal of additional compensation for homelessness was reconsidered and Mr Vanriel was awarded an additional £29,250.
The effect of settlement
Mr. Vanriel’s representatives then brought forward a number of claims for judicial review, but Mr Justice Griffiths found that the words “full and final settlement” were unambiguous, and that Mr. Vanriel’s acceptance of the award precluded further claims in relation to the same events.
Pursuing a claim for judicial review regarding an award under the Windrush Compensation Scheme which has been accepted and paid on the basis of full and final settlement as an “abuse of process”. Griffiths J dismissed the idea that public issues were at stake and therefore judicial review was appropriate, stating that “this is not a case in which any general question of public policy arises, but instead it is all about the claimant’s individual claim and the amounts he specifically claimed under the Scheme”.
The Compensation Scheme is a voluntary scheme to compensate victims. It does not make a victim entitled to receive the highest possible award. Here, the initial settlement sum had been properly calculated according to the rules set out under the scheme.
This case indicates the importance of timing and consideration. It is an abuse of process for an individual to pursue a claim for judicial review in respect of an award that has been accepted in full as the final settlement figure and which has been paid on that basis. This is true regardless of whether the court’s decision, if made, would be more or less favourable to the terms of the settlement.