Immigration judges have allowed a convicted robber to stay in Britain on human rights ‘article 8’ grounds simply because he has a girlfriend in this country, the Telegraph reports.
The Sri Lankan was jailed for 15 months but fought off an official attempt to deport him to his homeland because he said his human right to a “private and family life” was not being respected as he was going out with a woman here.
The case will increase concerns over the ease with which foreign criminals use human rights legislation to stay in Britain – an issue highlighted by The Sunday Telegraph’s “End The Human Rights Farce” campaign.
Only the sketchiest details of the case were released by judges because of a policy which claims that naming foreign criminals who get to stay in Britain would put them at “potential risk” – a move condemned as a betrayal of open justice by politicians.
The unnamed man had first come to Britain, aged 13, in 2001, failed to gain asylum but was given exceptional leave to remain before he committed the robbery, of which no details have been published by the immigration tribunal system.
As well as refusing to name the criminal, the tribunal kept secret all details of the crime, where he lives in the United Kingdom and exactly how he reached this country.
The 22-year-old was convicted of robbery in December 2008, sentenced to 15 months in prison, and served with a deportation order by the Home Office.
He then fought an 11-month legal battle to be allowed to stay, first taking his case to an asylum and immigration panel, which backed him.
When the Home Office appealed he hired a high-flying barrister who had previously worked at the European Court of Human Rights.
The barrister, Claire Physsas, successfully argued that because he had a girlfriend in Britain, he had “established a private and family life”.
Judge Christopher Hanson said that even though the 22-year-old and his girlfriend of five years were no more than a “courting couple” he should stay in the country – and rejected a claim by the Home Office that because their relationship was “at some distance” it did not amount to private and family life.
In his written judgment, Judge Hanson conceded that the existence of a girlfriend did not amount to having a family, but ruled that the relationship, on top of “social ties” in Britain, meant that the robber had a “private life” which entitled him to stay in Britain.
Experts described the latest case as “absurd” and said it amounted to a “grotesque misuse” of the Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, while politicians warned that giving anonymity to criminals struck at the heart of the principle of open justice.
Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP spearheading a parliamentary campaign for human rights reform, said: “This ruling defies common sense. A convicted robber should not be able to claim family rights to frustrate a deportation order, based on the fact that he has a girlfriend.
“It adds insult to injury that the tribunal is applying double standards by not disclosing the identity of the offender without a clear justification. Decisions like this bring the British justice system into disrepute.”
David Davis, the former Conservative shadow home secretary, said: “Yet again we see an unwarranted extension of Article 8.
“This Article is already subject to grotesque misuse and is bringing human rights legislation into disrepute as well as undermining our criminal justice system. If evidence were needed that this system needs reform, then this case is it.”
He added that the criminal’s name should be made public: “It is a fundamental tenet of British justice that justice is seen to be done. When the courts themselves cover things up one must come to the conclusion that this does not lead to good law or to confidence in the system.”
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “We were very disappointed with the courts ruling in this case and it was in the public’s interest that we tried to remove this individual from the UK.
“Any foreign criminal serving more than 12 months in prison is automatically considered for deportation.” Source: The Telegraph.
Last week the Home Office announced that it may challenge a court decision to allow former X Factor contestant Gamu Nhengu and her family to stay in the UK.
Officials at the UK Border Agency said they were “disappointed” at the ruling – which overturned an order that the family should return to Zimbabwe.
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