Drug dealer loses human rights bid to avoid deportation
A foreign national drug dealer convicted of attempted murder is not entitled to avoid deportation under human rights laws because he has British children, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
Two senior judges declared that "the public interest" in deporting the Vietnamese father-of-two, referred to as "CT", trumped the "deleterious effects" his removal might have on his children.
The judges said it was Parliament's intention that foreign nationals sentenced to at least four years in prison should be deported, unless there were exceptional circumstances.
Lady Justice Rafferty, sitting with Lord Justice Tomlinson, said: "Neither the British nationality of (CT's) children nor their likely separation from their father for a long time is exceptional circumstances which outweigh the public interest in his deportation."
CT had relied on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to private and family life.
But the judge said that "only the strongest Article 8 claims" could succeed and it would "almost always be proportionate to deport, even taking into account as a primary consideration the best interests of a child".
The evidence in CT's case was that the children would be left "unhappy at the prospect of their father being on another continent", said the judge.
But the fact there had been three-and-a-half years of no reports of further offending was not enough to rebut the presumption that CT posed a danger to the public, given the seriousness of his offences and "lessons plainly not learned between prison sentences".
The ruling was a significant legal victory for Home Secretary Theresa May who had appealed against rulings by immigration tribunals blocking her decision to remove CT.
He first arrived in the UK in 1991 and was granted refugee status and indefinite leave to remain. His refugee status was revoked after he returned to Vietnam for significant periods.
In September 1997, he was convicted at the Old Bailey of attempted murder and possession of a loaded firearm with intent to endanger life in London's Vietnamese community. He received jail terms of seven years and four years, to run concurrently.
After his release, he began a relationship with a woman, KLN, who gave birth to a son and daughter, now aged 13 and 10 respectively. His partner already had two other children, now 22 and 18, from an earlier relationship.
He stood trial again in June 2009 at Snaresbrook Crown Court and was convicted of 2006 conspiracies to cultivate and supply cannabis, receiving a four-year sentence.
He was also convicted of another firearms offence, this time possession of a firearm while under a prohibition and possession of ammunition without a certificate, resulting in a concurrent sentence of seven years and six months.
The Home Secretary made a deportation order against CT in September 2010.
CT fought deportation on the grounds that his right to a private and family life under Article 8 would be violated by his removal, and it would be contrary to the best interests of the children of his family.
His appeal against the order was dismissed by a first tier immigration tribunal in January 2011 on the grounds that deportation would be "proportionate".
An upper tribunal allowed his appeal to a limited extent in September 2011, but the Home Secretary refused to revoke the deportation order.
The first tier tribunal considered CT's case in March 2014 and this time found in CT's favour. An appeal by the Home Secretary was rejected by the upper tribunal.
But the Home Secretary has won her case on appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Lady Justice Rafferty was critical of the first tier tribunal limiting its description of CT's behaviour to "reprehensible". The judge said: "That is a remarkably restrained description of criminal offences which included possession of a loaded firearm with intent to endanger life and attempted murder."
The tribunal had also characterised offences committed by CT as "at the very least disappointing". The judge said: "Once again I am surprised at the language."
Though the tribunal had conceded that possession of a firearm on two separate occasions was serious and had implications for public safety, "nevertheless one might have expected an epithet reflective of anxiety, if not indignation, rather than a striking degree of tolerance", said the judge.
The tribunal also regarded as mitigation the fact that the offences were committed within the Vietnamese community and the wider public was not immediately at risk, although it was acknowledged that anyone could be hurt when guns were brandished.
The judge said: "I agree with the Home Secretary that the Vietnamese community in the UK is as entitled to protection from crime as much as is the wider public."