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Absence of fixed time limits in UK immigration system not a breach of Article 5

JN v United Kingdom (Application No. 27289/12)

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the United Kingdom was not in breach of Article 5 of the Convention (right to liberty) by having in place a system which did not specify maximum time limits for detaining persons prior to deportation.

The applicant was an Iranian national who had been convicted of indecent assault and had served a twelve-month custodial sentence.  Following his release, he was subjected to a number of conditions which he did not comply with.  The Secretary of State issued an order to deport the applicant and detained him under the legislation.  He was detained for more than four and a half years and alleged that his detention was unlawful.

The Court stated the principles as follows ‘the detention must be for the purpose of exercising the power to deport, be reasonable, release the detainee if they cannot be deported within a reasonable period and the authorities must act with due diligence and expedition to effect the removal.’ 

However, the Court found that Article 5 does not lay down maximum time limits for detention pending deportation.  The issue was whether domestic law contained sufficient procedural safeguards against arbitrariness.  In this case the UK met the Convention requirements.  However, between January 2008 and September 2009 the matter had not been pursued with due diligence and detention during this period had been unlawful.

Read UK Human Rights Blog article here.

Deportation, ECHR Art. 5