Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cat on a HRA Tin Roof?

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceDid you hear the one about Theresa May, the Human Right's Act and the Cat?

Well earlier today the Conservative Home Secretary said in her speech to the Tory faithful.

We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act. The violent drug dealer who cannot be sent home because his daughter – for whom he pays no maintenance – lives here. The robber who cannot be removed because he has a girlfriend. The illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had pet a cat.

Only she was kidding them somewhat.

The cat wasn't the reason that the immigrant couldn't be deported but was merely evidence that the immigrant had a relationship of some time standing. Indeed as the Telegraph at the time reported.

As part of the application and as part of the appeal, the couple gave detailed statements of the life they had built together in the UK to show the genuine nature and duration of their relationship. One detail provided, among many, was that they had owned a cat together for some time.
The appeal was successful and when giving the reasons for the success the judge did comment on the couple's cat. It was taken into account as part of the couple's life together. The Home Office asked for the decision to be reconsidered. They argued it should be reconsidered because the decision was wrong in law, and one error they cited was that too much consideration was given to the couple's cat. 
The home secretary mentioned the case in the context of her plans to change the rules to stop convicted criminals resisting deportations on the basis of article 8 – family ties. But the Bolivian man – who has never been named – was not even a convicted criminal.

So not only was the cat only part of circumstantial evidence that the man was in a relationship with another human being, not a feline, but also he wasn't a criminal as the Home Secretary, whose remit includes policing and immigration, almost seemed to imply by adding him to this list.

Indeed the Home Office had failed to carry out its own procedures regarding unmarried partners which is why the cat and the other factors were brought up to show that the relationship status was that of partners not housemates. So British authorities had failed to acknowledge their own procedures in bringing this man before  British judges seeking to expel him.

Ken Clarke has even challenged her that nobody has even been refused deportation purely because they owned a cat. However, May has been back pedaling since she left the stage saying that the fact checking of her speech was done from the press, maybe she puts too much trust in the Daily Mail's reporting of this story. Why not the court papers themselves to which she would have access?

May got a knee jerk reaction to her speech from the conference faithful, just as Nick Clegg gained a great cheer for saying we would not be scrapping the Human Rights Act in his speech at Lib Dem Conference. The difference is that Nick Clegg knows the history of the Human Rights Act, as he demonstrated in his speech, Theresa May was just playing to the crowd.

We are right to stand up for civil liberties. No retreat to the illiberal populism of the Labour years. We are right to insist on keeping the tax system fair. Asking the most of the people who have the most. And we will always defend human rights, at home as well as abroad. The European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act are not, as some would have you believe, foreign impositions. These are British rights, drafted by British lawyers. Forged in the aftermath of the atrocities of the Second World War. Fought for by Winston Churchill. So let me say something really clear about the Human Rights Act. In fact I'll do it in words of one syllable: It is here to stay. Nick Clegg in Birmingham 21 September 

Update The BBC have made it possible download the original judgement here


The European Court of Human Rights came into being21 January 1959 by virtue of Article 19 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Convention was founded out of the Council of Europe at the end of World War II.

The Council and what it were seen as required to do were laid out by a speech from Winston Churchill on (fortuitously for my memory my birthday) 19 September, 1946.

In the meantime some cats.

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