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European Court finds that UK breaches right to liberty due to six-month delay

V.M. v the United Kingdom, Application No. 49734/12

The European Court of Human Rights found that part of an individual’s detention prior to deportation violated the right to liberty under Article 5 of the ECHR.  The applicant entered the UK illegally in 2003 with her son.  Shortly afterwards she was charged with and pleaded guilty to child cruelty.  She was granted bail after which she absconded for two years.

In 2007 the applicant was arrested for possessing false documentation with intent to commit fraud.  She was sentenced to imprisonment and also convicted of child cruelty.  A psychological report revealed that she suffered from depressive and psychotic symptoms which were being managed through therapy and medication.  Due to the severity of the offences, the judge recommended deportation.  Towards the end of the period of imprisonment, the UK Border Agency decided to deport the applicant.  She remained in detention following completion of her sentence from 8th August 2008 onwards under immigration powers.

She judicially reviewed the lawfulness of the continuing detention, requesting that the deportation decision be reversed or the representations treated as a fresh asylum claim.  The High Court dismissed the applicant’s claims and she appealed to the Court of Appeal.  The Secretary of State conceded that the detention was unlawful from 8th August 2008 until 28th April 2010 due to the failure to consider the policy on immigration detention of mentally-ill people.  The Court of Appeal however found that the applicant would still have been detained even if the policy had been followed.  Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused.

The European Court found that the domestic law complied with the European Convention and detention conditions were appropriate.  However, while the authorities acted with due diligence, a lengthy delay between 19th June and 14th December 2009, could not be overlooked given the overall length of detention and the applicant’s deteriorating mental health.  Therefore, there had been a failure on the part of the authorities to conduct the domestic proceedings with due diligence during this six-month period.

Read UK Human Rights blog article here.

Deportation, ECHR Art. 5, Right to Liberty