Case Summary: Makhlouf v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Northern Ireland) [2016]

This case is one of two important deportation appeal hearings that have been recently heard in the Supreme Court dealing with the deportation of a foreign criminal. The case relates to the appeal of a decision made in 2014 to deport Mr Makhlouf, born in Tunisia, due to criminal activity amounting to two concurrent prison sentences, both convictions were for assault occasioning grievous bodily harm. Additional offences were also committed, resulting in further prison sentences for the appellant.

Circumstances of the Case

The appeal by Mr Makhlouf was made on a human rights basis, as he has two children, both British citizens by birth, who reside in the UK. In 1996, the appellant married a UK citizen, resulting in the birth of a daughter in 1997, following which he successfully applied for a spouse visa to live with his family in Northern Ireland. In 1998, Mr Makhlouf was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Following the breakdown of his marriage, the appellant separated from his wife in 1999, although they remain legally married. The appellant also went on to sire a son with a new partner in 2006, but the relationship did not last long following the birth of the child, and Mr Makhlouf has not had any contact with his son since 2010. Further to this, a 2008 Family Court hearing ruled that only indirect contact would be allowed with his daughter, and further leave would need to be granted by the court prior to any further applications for contact with her.

The appellant’s initial assault convictions happened in 2005, and between the years of 2008 and 2011 he was also convicted and sentenced for a strong of other offences, including a further assault charge for assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, disorderly behaviour, attempted criminal damage and breaching a non-molestation order. These offences resulted in further prison time for Mr Makhlouf.

Deportation Order & Appeals

The deportation order was issued by the Home Secretary in 2012 as a result of the appellant’s criminal activity and the number and recurring nature of the convictions. At this time, family circumstances were considered and the order was issued anyway, having taken them into account.

The basis of the appeal was under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The appellant claimed that the decision impinged on both his and his children’s’ rights to a family life under Article 8, and that due consideration was not given to the best interests of his children in considering deportation action. Previous appeals made to the First-tier Tribunal, Upper Tribunal and the Court of Appeal all resulted in the decision to deport Mr Makhlouf being upheld, and his appeal dismissed.

The Judgement

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court dismissed Mr Makhlouf’s appeal. It was held that consideration is indeed required around the best interests of the children in cases where the Secretary of State is considering deportation measures relating to a foreign criminal. This was said to be especially the case for children who have a dual ethnic background, and it was stated that the child’s interests must be a prime concern in coming to a judgement. In the case of Mr Makhlouf, however, there was no evidence to suggest that his children would be at all impacted by his being deported from the UK. As the appellant did not have any relationship with either child in this case, they lived lives that were completely independent of his, on which his being their father had no impact. The Supreme Court considered whether there were the possibility of a relationship developing in the future between the appellant and his children, but it was found that there was no evidence to suggest that this would be the case.

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