Deputy Upper Tribunal Judge Dave Cotton, Immigration and Asylum Chamber

“I grew up in suburban London and attended the local comprehensive school before studying law at university, I was the first in my family to go to university. I completed pupillage in London at a criminal set, and I loved the cut and thrust of criminal work, the direct impact it has on the lives of those involved and the constant striving for fairness. But I found that I wasn’t ready to do the same type of work every day for the foreseeable future, so I applied to join the Army and commissioned into the Army Legal Services. We change post every couple of years, and I’ve worked all over the world, from the USA to Australia, from Afghanistan to Sudan. My practice has spanned prosecuting in the Court Martial, to advising on International Humanitarian Law in operational theatres, to advising commanders on military employment and administrative law.

Before applying, I had taken part in some judicial shadowing and I had accrued some quasi-judicial experience. Both of these showed me that the skills I had acquired in my career to date placed me well to apply.

To me, applying for an appointment seemed like a natural progression in my career. One of the benefits of having variety in my career was that I knew I could learn new areas of law quickly and so I felt able to apply for positions outside the areas of law I had experience in. I was worried that accepting an appointment – even making an application – would be seen as being disloyal or uncommitted by my employer. In fact, both my legal colleagues and my clients have been very supportive.

The selection process was tough, but it was clear at each point what was required. For the selection exercise as a Deputy Upper Tribunal Judge, I felt that the process was very fair. This wasn’t the first selection exercise I had taken part in, and some of my previous experiences of selection were bruising – for example, I remember in one selection exercise for a different jurisdiction where I wasn’t successful, the judicial member of the interview panel suggested that I wasn’t really a practicing barrister because I’m not at the self-employed bar. But each failure lets you learn and when I saw the advert for the Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber I was attracted by the very human impact that decisions have along with the complicated and ever-evolving legal context of the work.

I’ve been in the role for about three years now and I find it very professionally fulfilling. I really like the feeling that you achieve justice for the parties as part of a system within a framework of complicated law and factual backgrounds. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the training we receive (which covered the law, procedure and judgecraft) and by the support from judicial colleagues. I have always found that full-time colleagues are happy to discuss any point that I might want to chew over with them. In addition, all the deputies are offered a mentor and the level of collegiality between judicial colleagues is a stand-out feature.”


%d bloggers like this: