Daily Mail on the naughty step for dodgy immigration story
19 July 2012
Somebody call Lord Justice Leveson! The Daily Mail have earned themselves a position on the legal naughty step by ‘naming and shaming’ a “controversial” immigration judge for allowing an appeal on human rights grounds, whilst failing to mention that the Home Office themselves had conceded the point.
The article by Andy Whelan and Ross Slater, entitled Judge who let Taliban soldier remain in Britain now allows refugee who raped girl, 12, stay in UK, even included a paparazzi snap of Immigration Judge Perkins looking vaguely sinister. The Mail reported, correctly, that the judge ruled “removing [the Appellant] would be contrary to the United Kingdom’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights“. This is technically right. But there is more. The excellent Free Movement Blog has tracked down the judgment, in which the Judge also made clear that
Before us, on 12 November 2009, Ms R Ashraf, who then represented the [Home Office], accepted that the appeal had to be allowed on human rights grounds.
This is even more surprising given the quote ‘the Government’ provided to the Daily Mail: “‘We are at the mercy of the courts“. I suppose this may have been a reference to previous country guidance rulings which make it impossible to deport to certain places, but most readers will read this as another barmy judicial decision, flying in the face of common sense etc. Whereas the full picture is that the Home Office themselves argued for the same position. Which means the legal position was so straightforward that the parties agreed on right outcome. Hardly a “controversial” decision as it is painted in the article.
Judges in the immigration tribunals have been getting a rough ride in the press recently. I took issue with a particularly poor article in the Sunday Telegraph, which relied upon very thin reasoning to suggest some immigration judges were more lenient than others. I recommend the comments; to his credit, the Telegraph’s David Barrett responded to the criticisms, but in my view the article was still sensationalist and statistically meaningless.
In honour of his coming elevation to the Presidency of the Supreme Court, I will take the opportunity (again) to quote Lord Neuberger on this topic. He highlighted two tendencies at work:
The first is simply outright misreporting. The story said one thing, when the truth was the opposite. The second is a more subtle form of misreporting: the Human Rights Act is brought in to take the blame for a decision to which in might have played a part – and the part the critics suggested it did play, but which in truth it did not.
The Daily Mail article fits into the first category: outright misreporting. The theme of the article is that judges are out of control and making crazy decisions. Maybe so, but not in this case, where the judge simply did what both parties, including the Government, considered was correct.
It must be a very difficult time to be an immigration judge. The shame is that nobody in positions of power seems to be prepared to defend them. Until this happens, the newspapers will be free to publish whatever nonsense they please. Take notice, Lord Justice Leveson.
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