On 1 October 2020, the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, gave a speech at Temple Church to mark the opening of the legal year. He praised the “enduring success” of our legal system, our “healthy democracy”, and the “commitment to the Rule of Law” which steered the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lord Chancellor delivered his speech two days after the controversial Internal Market Bill cleared its final hurdle in the House of Commons with ease, by 340 votes to 256. Earlier in September, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, told the House of Commons that the government’s plans would “break international law in a very specific and limited way.” On September 29, the Lord Chancellor voted against a proposed amendment to the Bill “requiring Ministers to respect the rule of law and uphold the independence of the Courts.” He was joined in doing so by the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, and the Solicitor General, Michael Ellis.
It is undeniable that the Human Rights Act has had a significant impact on the work of the Supreme Court. Just under a quarter (14 of 61) of cases decided during the Court’s 2018-19 term featured a determination on at least one issue relating to the Act or the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK Supreme Court is soon to begin Hilary Term 2020, and whilst the docket of cases it is set to hear this term seems to largely steer clear of controversial human rights issues we can nonetheless be confident that 2020 will feature its usual share of big human rights cases. What follows is a short preview of some of the more interesting and controversial of those cases, all of which the Court is due to hand down at some point this year.
It is well established that, under Article 3 ECHR, the United Kingdom cannot deport an individual to a country where, there is a “real risk” of them being subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment. This has been extended to include situations where the deportee would be placed in circumstances which might occasion a significant deterioration of health, including where they lack access to life-saving treatment.
The question in this case is whether Article 3 prohibits deportation in AM’s situation. He is an HIV-positive individual, whose condition for many years was being managed by anti-retroviral drugs in the UK. If deported to Zimbabwe, he would be very unlikely to have access to the same treatment. Although some medical options would be available to him, they would likely be significantly less effective for the management of his condition.
Previous authorities had restricted the application of Article 3 to ‘deathbed’ cases only, where the deportee would likely die quickly following their removal from the country.
Ali v Serco, Compass and the Secretary of State for the Home Department – read judgment.
Serco hit the headlines in July of last year when it introduced its controversial eviction practice of changing the locks of refused asylum seekers. In a judgment that refugee charities are describing as a worrying precedent, the Inner House of the Court of Session ruled that this practice is lawful.
Euan Lynch has also posted on this case, focussing on the question of whether Serco should be classified as a “public authority” under the HRA 1998 as the Outer House and the Inner House of the Court of Session reached different conclusions on this point.
The Inner House of the Court of Session has ruled that Serco Limited acted lawfully when evicting a failed asylum seeker from temporary accommodation in Glasgow without first obtaining a court order. This is the same conclusion that was drawn by the Outer House of the Court of Session in April. Daniel McKaveney has posted on the main points in this judgement here.
Whilst each judgment reached the same end result, one striking difference between the two is the reasoning that the Lord Ordinary and the Lord Justice Clerk deployed to answer the question of whether Serco should be classified as a “public authority” under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (“the HRA 1998”).
The persuasiveness and significance of each courts’ reasoning will be considered below.
TM (Kenya) concerned a 40 year old Kenyan woman who faced deportation after her applications for leave to remain and asylum were rejected by the Home Office. She had been detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in advance of proceedings to remove her from the country, during which time she had been uncooperative with staff. In light of her behaviour and in advance of her removal to Kenya, she was removed from free association with other detainees. Such detention was authorised by the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Manager at Yarl’s Wood, who was also the appointed “contract monitor” at the centre for the purposes of section 49 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
She sought judicial review of the decision to deprive her of free association. The initial application was refused. She appealed to the Court of Appeal where she advanced three grounds, including that her detention was not properly authorised.
The court found no conflict in the dual positions held by the manager at Yarl’s Wood. The Home Secretary had legitimately authorised her detention under the principles described in Carltona Limited v Commissioners of Works  2 All ER 560. In addition, there was no obligation to develop a formal policy concerning removal from free association, as Rule 40 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001 was sufficiently clear to meet the needs of transparency. Continue reading →
R (On the application of Mofazzar Baradarn and Malik Baradarn0 v Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Sikh Council Hampshire 24 June 2014  EWCA Civ 854 – read judgment
David Manknell of 1 Crown Office Row represented the Home Office in these proceedings. He has had nothing to do with the writing of this post.
France is a country which observes its Convention obligations therefore it is not in breach of Article 3 or any other of the Convention’s provisions to return an asylum seeker thence under the Dublin Regulation, since that system provides that once a Member State has “taken charge” of an application for asylum (as France has in this case) it has exclusive responsibility for processing and determining the claim for asylum. The prohibition on religious clothing in public schools in France did not disclose a threat to the second appellant’s Convention rights.
The appellants were Iranian nationals (father and daughter) who challenged the Secretary of State’s decision on 5 December 2011 to refuse their asylum claims on safe third country grounds and to remove them to France. France had accepted responsibility for their asylum claims pursuant to the Dublin II Regulation. Before Hickinbottom J, they objected to their return to France because under French law they were banned from the wearing of the burka and the niqab in public. They alleged that this would breach their rights under articles 3, 8, 9, 11 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Their claims were dismissed by the judge in their entirety. Maurice Kay LJ gave them permission to appeal in relation only to articles 8, 9 and 14 by reference only to the French Law 2004-228 (“the 2004 law”) and in relation to section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 (“BCIA”). The 2004 law had not featured in argument before the judge. It was, however, common ground that the appeal was concerned with the 2004 law and not the 2010 law. The 2004 Law provides that “in public elementary schools, middle schools and secondary schools, the wearing of symbols or clothing by which the students conspicuously indicate their religious belief is prohibited”. Continue reading →
EM (Eritrea) and Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 12 – read judgment
The Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision on the correct test for when an asylum seeker or refugee resists their return to another EU country (here Italy) in which they first sought or were granted asylum. The parties before the court all agreed that the test applied by the Court of Appeal, namely a requirement for a systemic deficiencies in the listed country’s asylum procedures and reception conditions was incorrect.
The Supreme Court agreed and held that even when the Dublin II Regulation was engaged, the correct test was that laid down in Soering v United Kingdom (1989) 11 EHRR 439 – the removal of a person from a member state of the Council of Europe to another country was contrary to the ECHR “where substantial grounds have been shown for believing that the person concerned… faces a real risk [in the country to which he or she is to be removed] of being subjected to [treatment contrary to article 3 of the Convention].”
Zoumbas (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) On appeal from the Inner House of the Court of Session,  CSIH 87  UKSC 74 – read judgment
The Supreme Court has clarified the principles to be applied when considering the welfare of children in deportation cases. The following summary is based on the Supreme Court’s Press Summary.
The appellant (Mr Z) and his wife (Mrs Z) are nationals of the Republic of Congo currently living in Glasgow with their three children, now aged 9, 5 and 2. Mr Z entered the UK illegally in May 2001 using a French passport that did not belong to him. He married Mrs Z in November 2003 after she had entered the previous year using a forged French passport and both their asylum claims had been refused. Their appeals were unsuccessful . In October 2005 Mrs Z and the couple’s daughter (A) were detained and removed to Congo. For the following ten months, Mr Z was treated as an absconder having failed to report to the authorities.
A Local Authority v SY  EWHC 3485 COP (12 November 2013] – read judgment
A judge in the Court of Protection has ruled that a man who had “exploited and took advantage” of a young woman for the purpose of seeking to bolster his immigration appeal had engaged in an invalid marriage ceremony. The man, said Keehan J, had
“deliberately targeted” the respondent because of her learning difficulties and her vulnerability.
The courts would not tolerate such “gross exploitation.”
This was an application by a local authority in the Court of Protection in respect of the capacity of the respondent, SY, to litigate and to make decisions in relation to her life. Continue reading →
AB, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 3453 (Admin) – read judgment
Here unfolds a story of sophisticated abuse of the asylum system in this country by an individual skilfully shamming persecution. Nor did the security agents who escorted the claimant on his departure come up smelling of roses: it emerged during the course of these proceedings that they had falsified a room clearance certificate to boost the defence case.
The judgment also points up the potentially far-reaching effect of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and how this might render all the handwringing about the European Convention on Human Rights irrelevant, and a home grown Bill of Rights otiose.
The claimant, whom Mostyn J describes as “a highly intelligent, manipulative, unscrupulous and deceitful person”, arrived in this country in 2005, was refused asylum and was deported in 2010. He sought judicial review of the Home Secretary’s decision to refuse his claim and return him to his state of embarkation, “Country A” (so designated because there was a reporting restriction order made in the original proceedings anonymising both the claimant, his country of origin, and the political organisation of which he claimed to be a member. Mostyn J “reluctantly” went along with that order in this proceedings, since neither of the parties applied to have it reviewed.)
Navarathnam v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2383 (QB) – read judgment
There was no unfairness in the Secretary of State for the Home Department refusing a Sri Lankan asylum seeker leave to remain in the United Kingdom, despite the ruling from the Strasbourg court that to return him would violate his rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950.
A decision had been made to grant the applicant six months discretionary leave to remain but he had absconded before it could be implemented, and by the time he resurfaced the secretary of state had been entitled to review the case and determine that the circumstances in Sri Lanka had changed so that he was no longer at risk if returned.
The claimant was a Sri Lankan national who had been subject to removal action after his asylum claim was refused. In 2008 the Strasbourg Court declared that the circumstances in Sri Lanka were such that his expulsion to Sri Lanka would violate the prohibition on torture and inhuman treatment under Article 3 (AA v United Kingdom). The UK authorities consequently confirmed that removal directions would not be applied to him, and stated that he would be granted six months discretionary leave to remain (DLR). Continue reading →
The Upper Tribunal has concluded that new Immigration Rules do not adequately reflect the Secretary of State’s obligations under Article 8 of the ECHR.
This is the second determination of the “fit” between the immigration rules, introduced last year, and the UK’s obligations under Article 8 of the Convention. I covered the Upper Tribunal’s assessment of the rules in MF (Article 8–new rules) Nigeria  UKUT 00393 (IAC) in a previous post and it will be remembered that the Tribunal held there that the new rules fall short of all Article 8 requirements.
The claimant was a Nigerian national who had raised a claim to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights as part of a claim for asylum. She had travelled to the UK previously, with periods of overstaying and having obtained employment by using false identity papers. Whist in the UK she met her husband, a dual British/Nigerian citizen and argued that her removal would interfere with her right to family life under Article 8. Continue reading →
EM (Eritrea) and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department – read judgment
A member state was entitled to return a refugee to the EU state of first embarkation unless it is proved that there are “systematic deficiencies” in the asylum procedures of the receiving state.
These four cases raised one central question: was it arguable that to return any of the claimants to Italy, either as an asylum-seeker pursuant to the Dublin II Regulation or as a person already granted asylum there, would entail a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the ECHR? In determining that question, the evidence provided by the UN Refugee Agency was decisive for the court.
RT (Zimbabwe) and others (Respondents) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 38 – read judgment
It is no answer to a refugee claim to say that the individual concerned should avoid persecution by lying and feigning loyalty to a regime which he does not support.
So the Supreme Court has ruled today, considering the relevance to political beliefs of the so-called “HJ(Iran) principle” which was formulated in a case where it was held that it was no answer to an asylum claim by a gay man that he should conceal his sexual identity in order to avoid the persecution that would follow if he did not do so. Continue reading →
Medhanye, R(on the application of ) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 1799 (Admin) (02 July 2012) – read judgment
EU law is based on a central principle of mutual confidence. It therefore flies in the face of this trust to impose a legal duty on one member state to monitor whether another Member State was complying with its obligations under that law, including its obligation to respect fundamental human rights.
The claimant, an Eritrean national, sought asylum in the UK, having previously claimed asylum in Italy. The secretary of state decided to remove him to Italy under Regulation 343/2003 (Dublin II). The claimant challenged the Secretary of State’s decision to certify as “clearly unfounded” his claim that removing him to Italy would breach his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). His application for judicial review was refused. Continue reading →
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