I’ve only done one.
I still won it though, saving my client over £13,000, by proving that it was an ‘official error’, and therefore not repayable.
In the process I’ve become quite a whizz at distinguishing Hinchy (Respondent) v. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Appellant),  UKHL 16, the leading and in my view, poorly decided case around a claimants duty to disclose a material fact, and to whom. It’s the type of case that caused Professor Smith to call the House of Lords judical panel ” a luxury the UK can ill afford”. Or something like that. In one of them there criminal law books I read at uni. I think it was a casebook.
I’m going to give some tips for any of you Googlers who have landed on my page looking for information on Hinchy. Firstly, thanks for coming, your hair looks lovely. Where did you get it cut? Oh really? It takes years off you. That top’s never out of Primark (pronounced Preee-mark in Belfast) is it? Wow. Can we date? My number is 07814 422231. Really it is. You can also get me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Text me. Love you.
What I also discovered was that the appeals process at first instance is a bit easy to be successful in if you know what you’re doing. Here are a few comments:-
- There are rarely any lawyers on the other side
- The presenting officers are employees who don’t see it as their job to fight the department’s case tooth and nail
- There is a dearth of academic discourse on decided cases. That was a big big shock to me. No journal articles. Nada. For the average person anyway.
- If you contacted the Department by phone, on the date the material fact came into being In Northern Ireland, at time of writing, there is no way to check that info. This is a huge mistake on the part of the Department. It wasn’t a factor in this case by the way, so don’t think that I won that case by default.
- You need a good book as most of the stuff on the interwebs is crap, and not really relevant. You spend weeks going through forum posts and not making much progress. Get your hands on Social Security Law in the UK by Partington or the Welfare benefits and tax credits handbook by CPAG .
- The tribunal panel is very informal with not much that passes for opening and closing submissions, examination in chief or cross examination. Its very chatty, and you will get your chance to talk. When you do, don’t ramble and don’t be irrelevant. Your good points may get lost in your indignation or back story.
- You wont be sworn in. There is no witness box. You’re just there at a table. The legally qualified person is in front of you. If its about medical evidence there will be more than one person there.
- Talk about what a material fact is
- Get your file under a subject access request under that Data Protection Act
- Make sure that you get the medical file as well as it may contain info that you disclosed the material fact, and to who