We're Hosting a Medico-Legal Report Seminar at Doughty Street Chambers


Freedom from Torture is delighted to bring you a seminar hosted in partnership with Doughty Street Chambers on Using Medico-legal Reports to Best Effect in the Asylum Process.

The aim of the seminar is to give lawyers, legal advisers and other staff a greater understanding of how medico-legal reports (MLRs) are prepared and how they can be most effectively used within the asylum process. The seminar will be a unique opportunity to gain insight into the MLR process from a clinical, legal and policy perspective and to allow participants to discuss issues and experiences arising in the use of MLRs. In addition, participants will hear from a service user representative from Freedom from Torture’s Survivors Speak Out to get an insight into the experiences of survivors in the asylum process.

The event will run from 6pm to 7.30pm.

Following the seminar, participants should be able to:

  • Recognise best practice when producing Medico-legal Reports (MLRs): How MLRs are prepared and how to address the current policy framework.

  • Recognise how MLRs are considered by the Home Office (HO), Identify how to use MLRs effectively in the asylum process.

  • Recognise the work that has been done to date, campaigning for change in policy and how legal professionals can engage with this campaign.

  • Identify the impact on individual survivors and their asylum claim due to poor treatment / lack of understanding of the MLR as independent evidence of torture.

The event will be chaired by Antonia Benfield and the Panel will consist of:

  • Zoe Harper, Doughty Street Chambers

  • Dr Juliet Cohen, Head of Doctors, Freedom from Torture

  • Service User Representative

  • Emily Rowe, Legal Officer, Freedom from Torture

  • Liz Williams, Senior Policy Advisor, Freedom from Torture

Email to register your interest

Brief biographies on the panel members and a summary of their respective sessions can be found below.

Antonia Benfield

Antonia is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers specialising in asylum, immigration and public law.  She has broad experience in working with vulnerable clients and victims of torture. 

Zoe Harper

Zoe is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers specialised in representing victims of torture. She will open the panel discussion by presenting an overview of the legal and policy framework on the consideration of claims by torture survivors and provide an update on case law developments.

Dr Juliet Cohen

Dr Juliet Cohen is Head of Doctors at Freedom from Torture. She has provided over 1500 reports documenting evidence of torture, trafficking and other forms of serious harm. In 2017-18 she was an expert consultant for the European Asylum Support Office revision of their training for immigration officers across the EU on interviewing vulnerable persons, and in 2019 is an expert consultant for EASO on revision of their training on evidence assessment. As co-chair of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine’s working party, she is responsible for the publication in 2019 of the ground-breaking document Quality Standards for Healthcare Professionals working with Victims of Torture in Detention, the subject of a Lancet editorial in July 2019. She is the primary drafter for chapter V of the revised Istanbul Protocol, due for publication in 2020.

Juliet will give an outline of how a medicolegal report is prepared, and the guidance of the Istanbul Protocol in the assessment of physical and psychological evidence and the consistency of this with the attribution given. There are some common medical myths to discuss including what doctors really think about what patients tell them, and how certain we can be about our memory.  Finally, we should think about challenges for the medico-legal report writer including assessment of the impact of return and future risk of suicide, and the re-examination of those who already have one report.

Emily Rowe

Emily is a solicitor, who has been in the Legal Officer role for several years at Freedom from Torture’s Medico-legal Report Service, having previously worked at Refugee and Migrant Justice.

In her session, Emily will give an overview of how medical evidence has been mishandled by decision-makers, including as attested to by the findings of her organisation’s Proving Torture report. She will outline involvement in the UKVI’s recent training to decision-makers on consideration of MLRs, including how it was set up, who has been trained, and its aims and expectations.

Liz Williams

Liz is one of the Senior Policy Advisors at Freedom from Torture has 12 years of experience of undertaking research and advocacy on asylum and human rights issues.

Liz is also a Director of Asylum Research Centre and has received commissions from Amnesty International UK, the Environmental Law Foundation, the Hungarian Helsinki Foundation, the Independent Advisory Group on Country Information, the Still Human Still Here Coalition, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority/Legal Ombudsman/Unbound Philanthropy and UNHCR.

She holds an MA in Social Anthropology of Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies and an MA (hons) in Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh.

Liz will give an overview of Freedom from Torture’s advocacy following the Proving Torture campaign including an overview of the forthcoming report ‘Lessons Not Learned: The failures of asylum decision-making in the U.K’. The report examines 50 report of asylum decision-making from across the refugee sector over the last 15 years, highlighting ongoing poor practice which shows that despite the mounting critical evidence, lessons are still not being learned. We call for systemic overhaul of the asylum and immigration system.

Survivors Speak OUT: Are a national network of torture survivors who are former clients of Freedom from Torture and who speak with authority on issues of torture, and life in the UK as asylum seekers and refugees who have survived trauma. In the fight against torture they are the experts. Their stories and experiences have been appropriated by their torturers and the hostile environment in this country. Their expert voices influence others and call for evidence-based policies. They talk to youth audiences at colleges and universities around the country, brief governments and shadow ministers, and provide evidence to parliamentary inquiries and other independent scrutiny bodies.

To find out more about the Survivors Speak OUT network, details are on the website.

Find out about more Freedom from Torture events.

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