A new law to stop foreign criminals avoiding deportation by having their claims to the human right to a “family life” backed by courts is to be made.
Mrs May’s decision to up the stakes represents full victory for The Sunday Telegraph’s ‘End the Human Rights Farce’ campaign
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is to legislate after judges ignored moves taken last year to change the current regime which sees scores of dangerous offenders allowed to stay in Britain every year.
Mrs May said the actions of some immigration judges were “not acceptable” and said their hands would now be forced by the planned new law. Judges were “denying the democratic and legal validity” of ministers’ moves to end the abuse of the system, the Home Secretary added.
A new Immigration Bill will be published later this year to give full legal weight to ministers’ demands that foreign criminals should not routinely be able to dodge deportation by citing Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
This permits a right to a family life as a potential barrier to removal – but ministers and MPs believe this must be balanced with the need to protect the public and control immigration.
The new law will spell out that Article 8 allows deportations to prevent “disorder or crime”, meaning judges will be forced to take that into account when considering appeals by criminals.
Mrs May’s decision to up the stakes represents full victory for The Sunday Telegraph’s “End the Human Rights Farce” campaign – launched in 2011 after complaints that British judges were setting too much store by the right to a family life.
The planned new law — which could also contain new restrictions on migrants coming to Britain from countries including Romania and Bulgaria – will please Conservative MPs eager for some “red meat” policy proposals and for ministers to boost parliamentary sovereignty.
The timing of Mrs May’s announcement – in the middle of the Eastleigh by-election campaign which is being closely fought by the two coalition parties – will increase the pressure on the Liberal Democrats ahead of a parliamentary vote.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, is poised to make a major speech in which he will address voters’ views that his party is soft on immigration and outline plans for a tougher stance in the run up to the next general election in 2015.
A Tory source said: “If Nick Clegg is serious about changing his policy on immigration and appearing tougher, here is his first big test.”
Last summer the Home Secretary changed immigration rules in an effort to make clear that foreign criminals should be deported – despite claiming the right to a family life in Britain – if they were serious or persistent offenders.
The new rules were backed unanimously by the House of Commons – but do not carry the full weight of law and because of this are routinely ignored by judges on the Immigration Tribunal, which hears the majority of appeals.
In 2011-12, 1,888 appeals were lodged against deportation of which 409 were allowed. Of these nearly half, 185, were allowed on the basis of Article 8.
Mrs May said: “The European Convention on Human Rights is clear – there is a right to a family life, but that right should be balanced with the wider public interest in controlling immigration and protecting the public. That’s why we introduced new immigration rules last year.
“Those rules were debated in full and passed unanimously by the House of Commons. So it is not acceptable that some immigration judges are denying the democratic and legal validity of them.
“I said at the time that if the courts did not heed the changes to the rules, I would introduce primary legislation to force them to do so. That is exactly what I now intend to do.
“I am determined that Article Eight must not stop us deporting dangerous foreign criminals.”
Criminals who lose their cases in Britain will however still be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Home Office sources said that until the new law came into force, the Government would continue to fight cases in the courts and to defend its decisions on the basis of last year’s rule changes.
Even before Mrs May’s new guidance came into force last July, senior judges appeared to undermine it in their ruling on a landmark case.
Mr Justice Blake, the president of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber, said as he upheld the case of Shabaz Masah, a Pakistani drug dealer who lives in north London, that a “settled migrant” could not be removed from Britain unless there were “very serious reasons to do so”.
Many of the cases highlighted by the “End the Human Rights Farce” campaign have shown how foreign criminals can strengthen their case to remain by having a child or a partner here.
The courts continued to show their reluctance to abide by Mrs May’s new rules even after they came into force.
In October last year a Romanian woman jailed for her role in a multi million pound benefits fraud was allowed to stay in Britain because of her human rights.
Lavinia Olmazu helped a gang funnel £2.9 million in false benefits claims to 172 Romanian gipsies but because she has a son who lives in this country she successfully claimed Article 8.
Andrew Jordan, the senior judge who upheld an earlier ruling on Olmazu, from London, said judges “inevitably” had room for manoeuvre when deciding a case – something the new immigration rules had sought to stop.
Theresa May: I’ll bring in new law to end human rights farce