Home Office policy for removing migrants unlawful, court rules

A major plank of the UK’s strategy for removing failed migrants has been ruled illegal because it prevents the courts from considering their cases.

In a significant ruling, the Court of Appeal said the policy risked removing people from the UK even if they had a right to be in the country.

The policy has been used in 40,000 removal cases.

Campaigners who brought the challenge said the Home Office had endangered lives by short-cutting the law.

The unanimous judgment against the Home Office was taken by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, and two other senior judges.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment. It’s not clear whether ministers will attempt to go to the Supreme Court.

The controversial policy which has been ruled illegal was introduced in 2015 in an attempt to prevent last-minute applications to stop removals – sometimes at the steps of the plane.

It has been suspended for 18 months during the legal battle. Removals have been carrying on under a far slower and complicated procedure.

Under the 2015 policy, officials told failed applicants – whether they were asylum seekers, economic migrants or people making other claims – that they had 72 hours to make final representations. After that, they could be flown out of the UK, without notice, on any date in the following three months.

Charity Medical Justice said the rules meant people with a genuine case to be in the UK simply could not present their arguments in time to a judge.

In examples submitted to the court, the charity said the Home Office had repeatedly removed people – only to bring them back again.

In one case, a man who had evidence that relatives had been murdered in his home country, had to be flown back to the UK and he was later found to be a genuine refugee.

The three Court of Appeal judges said the Home Office’s aspiration to speed up removals was not in itself illegal – but in practice the policy had prevented effective appeals and that had risked serious injustices.

“The right to access the court is an absolute and inviolable right,” said the court.

“The right to access to the court is not a relative right to be balanced against other rights and interests, the convenience of the executive or the courts, or the risks of abuse of process.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel has repeatedly accused what she has called “activist lawyers” of slowing down immigration removals.

And in the judgment, the Lord Chief Justice said there were “endemic” problems of false and fanciful late claims, some of which involved a “minority of lawyers”, unconnected to the case before them.

But the judges stressed that the Home Office’s solution had prevented judges from considering genuine cases because someone could be put on a flight before they had had a chance to go to court.

A spokesman for Medical Justice said the policy had unfairly treated many of its sick clients.

“One of our society’s most precious treasures is access to justice,” said the spokesman.

“Chillingly, away from the public gaze, this policy denied that fundamental right on a massive scale causing serious harm to extremely vulnerable people and risking life.

“It was effectively a shortcut to removal. Quashing the policy brings us back towards equal access to justice for all.”

Nóra Quoirin: Search group waited hours after finding body

A volunteer who found the body of a London schoolgirl who disappeared from a Malaysian jungle resort said he had to wait “hours” for authorities to arrive, an inquest has heard.

Nóra Quoirin was “found on a rock” last August by Chong Yue Fatt after a huge search of dense rainforest.

Her family have always insisted Nóra would not wander off alone.

The inquest which started two months ago has resumed after a witness came into contact with a Covid-19 patient.

Nóra’s family were staying in Sora House in Dusun eco-resort near Seremban, about 40 miles (65km) south of Kuala Lumpur, when Nóra, who was born with holoprosencephaly, a disorder which affects brain development, was first reported missing a day after they arrived on 3 August.

The 15-year-old’s body was found on 13 August by the group of civilian volunteers in a palm-oil plantation about 1.5 miles from the holiday home.

Mr Chong told the court in Seremban that the hiking group had trekked in the Pantai area many times before, especially Mount Berembun, but not in the specific area that the body was found.

The civilian search group had more than 20 people, all civilians and with no recognised guide but it was led by Chan Kai Sian who is scheduled to give evidence on Thursday.

He said Mr Chan had been involved in previous searches and Mr Chong joined on 13 August and the volunteer group were split into pairs.

“I saw the body,” Mr Chong told the court adding that it was 50m (164ft) away from a shed.

“When I found the body, the place where I shouted, that’s where I remained standing.

“We all tried to call by phone but could not get any calls out. And we asked a Malaysian Indian who knows the area very well, and he was the one who told his father to call the fire department, because there’s no (phone) line.”

Mr Chong said said it felt like “one or two hours” before any assistance arrived.

He added: “We told all group members not to come close to the body, because (we were) afraid we would tamper any evidence. We just waited until assistance arrived.”

The inquest continues.

Coronavirus: Edwin Poots says he did not link virus with religion

DUP minister Edwin Poots has said he has not “at any time” attributed the spread of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland to religious affiliations.

Last week, the minister said the difference in transmission between nationalist and unionist areas was “around six to one”.

He had been facing calls from other Stormont parties to apologise.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mr Poots said he cherished his “Catholic friends and neighbours”.

The agriculture minister said that over the course of the last few days “Sinn Féin and others have tried to distort and twist comments I made in reference to the spread of Covid-19”.

“At no time did I attribute the spread of Covid-19 to religion. It is deeply regrettable that such a narrative has been created,” he added.

“It is obvious such spread is related to behavioural issues nothing more, nothing less. I cherish my Catholic friends and neighbours.

“I would never intentionally use words that would cause them offence.”

Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd had previously said Mr Poots’s comments about virus levels in different council areas were a “disgrace” and should be withdrawn.

On Tuesday, Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said the Department of Health did not collate Covid-19 data on the basis of “political or religious affiliations”.

“At no stage would we have publicly or privately suggested there was a link between the transmission rates of Covid-19 and people’s political affiliation or religion – there is no such evidence and our approach throughout all of this has been guided by the evidence,” he said.

Mr Poots had spoken to UTV on Friday, openly criticising the imposition of the new regulations, which are in place for the next four weeks.

“I will abide by the regulations, as have most people in my community,” said Mr Poots.

“What I’m saying is, those people who didn’t abide by them, including the Sinn Féin leadership – because a lot of this started shortly after the Bobby Storey funeral.

“A lot of the problems started after that event and people in that community saw the breaking of the rules.

“That’s why there is a difference between nationalist areas and unionist areas – and the difference is around six to one.”

In his statement on Wednesday, Mr Poots maintained that “Covid-19 is spread by bad behaviour, such as that exemplified at the Bobby Storey funeral”.

Co-op stabbing: Zara Anne Radcliffe detained for manslaughter

A woman who killed a man, 88, when he intervened to stop her attacking others in a supermarket has been detained under a hospital order.

Zara Anne Radcliffe, 30, attacked John Rees at the Co-op in Penygraig on 5 May while suffering from schizophrenia.

She pleaded not guilty to murder but admitted manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility at Merthyr Crown Court.

She had also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of three others.

Radcliffe – who appeared in court via video link from Rampton Hospital, a secure unit in Nottinghamshire – was told the order would not be time limited in order to protect the public.

A person is detained as opposed to jailed if a court deems the individual has a mental disorder which needs assessment or treatment.

Lisa Way, 53, Gaynor Saurin, 65 and Andrew Price, 58, were also attacked by Radcliffe as they shopped at the Penygraig supermarket in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

CCTV showed Radcliffe cross the road towards the supermarket before attacking Mr Price in the street as he left the shop.

She jumped on his back and struck him to the head with a kitchen knife she had brought with her from home.

Mr Price managed to escape and ran away from her.

The video evidence showed her enter the shop and continue the attack on Ms Saurin by repeatedly stabbing her to the head.

Mr Rees attempted to intervene to stop her but was pushed to the floor and became the focus of the attack.

Ms Way asked Radcliffe to stop what she was doing and talk and was stabbed to the neck before escaping to a nearby takeaway.

A shop worker tried to drag Mr Rees away down one of the supermarket aisles but was stopped by Radcliffe who beat him with wine bottles and a fire extinguisher until he died from head injuries.

Mr Rees’s 87-year-old wife Eunice, who has dementia, was waiting in a car outside while he had gone shopping.

When police arrived at the store Radcliffe said: “It had to be done – that’s it.”

She told police she had heard voices telling her she had to kill someone to avoid being harmed herself.

She said: “I can’t tell you about the voices in my head, they’re so real.”

The court heard she had been admitted to the mental health unit at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital for just over a week in October 2019.

She was readmitted on 12 November before being released on 24 February, having been assessed that she was at low risk of harm.

The court heard she was not taking her medication at the time of the attack and her family had requested additional help for her.

Radcliffe’s barrister Jonathan Rees QC said she had suffered mental ill health since 2009.

He said she was truly remorseful and expressed “shame, horror and great regret” at her actions.

Following the incident, South Wales Police referred itself to the Independent Office of Police Conduct because of previous contact with Radcliffe but it concluded the force did not need to investigate.

The court heard Radcliffe had called police in the hours before the attack claiming she had been attacked by someone else, but she did not remain in the same location for police to be able to speak to her.

There was “disbelief” over the death of Mr Rees, a grandfather from Trealaw.

He was described by his family as “the very definition of a good man, extremely respected and liked in the community”.

Mr Rees helped ring the church bells every Thursday for key workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Rees’ son-in-law Patrick Davison Houston told the court he was a “warm, generous and humble gentleman”.

“We are proud of his actions on that day but not surprised,” he said.

Nottinghamshire miners rare holy grail Rolex sells for £175k

A rare Rolex described as the “holy grail of vintage watches”, once owned by a miner, has sold for £175,000.

The “exceptionally rare” Submariner 5512 was bought by a medical attendant at Shirebrook Colliery in Mansfield in 1964 for about £70.

It boasts a short-lived dial design, known as the 3-6-9, which was often replaced during servicing.

The original owner left the watch to his family who said they were in “a state of disbelief” over its value.

Auctioneer David Hare said: “This is the holy grail of vintage watches.

“There are so few of these left in their original condition that they command very high prices and are sought after by collectors all over the world.

“This particular watch has a version of the dial that experts call a ‘Crown-62’ variation, which makes it even rarer.”

The original owner’s son-in-law, who has not been named, said before the auction: “We’re still in a state of disbelief about the potential value of this watch.

“Things like this just don’t happen to us. Having worked all our lives to be able to enjoy retirement, this will give my wife and I the added financial security we’ve dreamt of.

“I imagine you’d feel like this if you had a big win on the Premium Bonds.”

The original owner was born in London but moved to Mansfield during World War Two to work in the mines as part of the Bevin Boys programme.

He stayed in the area but often travelled to London where he bought the watch for his 40th birthday. He died in 1995.

Coronavirus: Can I get a refund if I now cant go on holiday? And other questions

More and more people across the UK face tougher restrictions as the government tries to stop Covid spreading.

Here are some of your questions about England’s new three-tier system of restrictions, and other related topics.

What questions do you have about coronavirus? Do you want to ask it on BBC News? Get in touch and we may ask you to send us a video of you asking your question.

In some cases, your question will be published, displaying your name, age and location as you provide it, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. Please ensure you have read our terms & conditions and privacy policy.

Use this form to ask your question:

HS2: Medieval graffiti to ward off evil spirits found

Medieval graffiti associated with warding off evil spirits has been discovered by archaeologists.

A series of lines radiating from a drilled hole were unearthed on two stones at the remains of a church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire.

Historians believe the markings are 12th Century “witches’ marks” created to protect against spirits by trapping them in an endless line or maze.

The discovery was made in preparation for the building of the HS2 rail line.

Archaeologist Michael Court said it was “a fascinating insight into the past”.

The location of one of the stones at the medieval St Mary’s Church suggests the markings could have been created for protection.

They can also be interpreted as early sun dials, expert said.

The route of HS2 will go through the site of the 12th Century church, which was abandoned in 1866 when a new church was built closer to the village.

Work to dismantle and excavate the church will carry on until next year, and includes the removal and reburial of bodies in graves.

Mr Court, lead archaeologist for the high speed rail scheme, said the work on the line was revealing “years of heritage and British history”.

He said: “Discoveries such as these unusual markings have opened up discussions as to their purpose and usage.”

There have been several protests against the £98bn high speed rail project which have taken place across the country, and the Woodland Trust said it was “shocked and upset” after a pear tree, thought to be more than 250 years old, was cut down to make way for the line.

Covid in Scotland: Hospitality curbs extended for another week

Bars and restaurants in Scotland’s central belt are to remain closed for another week after short-term Covid-19 restrictions were extended.

The move comes as a further 28 deaths linked to the virus were recorded.

Scotland is due to move to a multi-tier system of virus alert levels similar to that in England from November 2.

The temporary restrictions targeting hospitality venues in the central belt in particular will continue until then to enable a “smooth transition”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it would “not be safe” to ease any restrictions in the short term, but said “we believe they may already be making a difference” to the spread of the virus.

Bars and restaurants in Scotland’s central belt – an area containing about 3.4m people – were closed on 9 October as part of what Ms Sturgeon called a “short, sharp action to arrest a worrying increase in infection”.

Hospitality venues in other parts of the country can only serve alcohol indoors.

These measures were originally meant to expire on 26 October, but Ms Sturgeon said they would now continue until a new “strategic framework” comes into force.

This multi-tier system will involve different levels of restrictions that can be applied nationally or regionally depending on the level of infection. It is due to be published on Friday, and debated by MSPs after Holyrood’s half term recess.

Ms Sturgeon said she had agreed with her cabinet on Wednesday that the short-term restrictions should remain in place in the interim to ensure a “smooth transition to the new system”.

The move came after a further 1,739 cases of coronavirus were logged in Scotland, with the number of people in hospital rising to 873.

A further 28 deaths were also registered – the highest number reflected in the daily statistics since 21 May.

Figures from the National Records of Scotland said Covid-19 had been mentioned on 75 death certificates in the week to Sunday, an increase of 50 on the week before.

The new multi-tier framework will also include details of financial support for businesses hit by enforced closures, which Ms Sturgeon will be “broadly similar” to that on offer in other parts of the UK.

She said: “While the level of support we set out will be the maximum that the Scottish government is able to provide within the resources available to us, it is the minimum we think is necessary.

“In common with other devolved administrations and many councils in England we will continue to pursue urgent discussions with the Treasury about provision of adequate support to help businesses and individuals through the restrictions likely to be necessary in the time ahead.”

The first minister said the new system was designed to provide clarity about the rules going forward, but warned that further restrictions might still be needed.

She said: “It is important to be clear at this stage that we can’t rule out that this new approach will entail further extension of existing restrictions, or tougher ones if we think that is necessary to safeguard life.

“It’s also important to be very clear that our decisions will be balanced by the assessment of the wider harms that Covid and the measures taken to tackle it are having – the wider harms to health as well as jobs and livelihoods.”

Ms Sturgeon said the continuing rise in infections and deaths was “clearly concerning”, but said it “should not be taken as an indication that the current restrictions we are living under are not having any impact”.

She said: “We do believe these restrictions will make a difference, and we believe they may already be making a difference.

“Even allowing for today’s figures, we may be seeing a reduction in the rate at which new cases are increasing.”

.

Covid-19: Football team fined for South Tyneside pub visit

Twelve members of a football team who claimed they were from the same household when they visited a pub have been fined.

Northumbria Police said the men, who have not been identified, were reported to officers by a “concerned” and “unconvinced” pub worker on Saturday.

Officers said the group showed a “flagrant disregard” for the rules.

South Tyneside is currently under tier 2 restrictions with people banned from meeting other households indoors.

Police said the group went to a pub, which is also not being identified, on Saturday night.

When a staff member challenged them, the group of men claimed to all be from the same household.

“Unconvinced, they called police to report the breach and when officers attended the men were all subsequently issued with fines,” a force spokesman said.

Each of the men were fined £200, although it is £100 if paid within 14 days.

Chief Superintendent Janice Hutton said: “This group showed a flagrant disregard for the rules which are in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Actions like this undermine the efforts being made by the majority of others in order to protect themselves, their family, friends and wider communities.”

Racist attack investigation reopened by Met Police

An investigation into a racist attack on three black women has been reopened by the Metropolitan Police.

For nearly two weeks after the attack officers failed to recover CCTV or take witness statements, even from the victims, BBC Newsnight found.

The three women say the police made racist assumptions about them and that hampered the investigation.

The Met denies this but has apologised for failing the women and said it was reviewing its work.

The force told the women it had closed the probe into the crime in April, but reopened it this month following Newsnight’s investigation.

The three women, who are of Somali descent, were attacked in north west London on 22 December by a gang of seven white men who were shouting racist abuse.

Returning from a night out, a taxi dropped them off on Kilburn Lane shortly before 3am and they went to a convenience store to buy snacks. One of the women, Niyad Farah, 38, lived nearby and her two friends planned to sleep at her flat.

Ms Farah, who was born in Wales, but has lived in London for 13 years, told the BBC two white women in the shop became aggressive when they heard one of her friends speaking on the phone in Swedish, saying she should ‘speak English’.

She says her friend was then punched in the face by one of the white women who were waiting for her outside.

Moments later, Ms Farah said she heard extremely offensive racist abuse being shouted by a group of seven white men, who approached them from a dark-coloured van parked on the opposite side of the road.

She told Newsnight she was punched to the ground and dragged into a doorway next to the shop, while her two friends were also being punched and kicked on the ground.

“I was like being stamped on… I was just curled up on the floor.”

Visibly traumatised, she said: “I was thinking my son’s not going to have a mum. And… I’m going to be dead.”

She was kicked unconscious in the attack and needed hospital treatment for head injuries and extensive bruising.

Ms Farah said the Met’s investigation of the attack was seriously flawed and claimed the police made racist assumptions about her and her friends.

She says an officer asked her in hospital if she was ‘buying anything’ off the men. She believes he was implying they were buying drugs and the women knew the attackers. She told Newsnight she thought the officer believed “it was almost impossible for a racist attack to happen in that area”.

“I felt like I was being interrogated,” she added.

Newsnight asked Bob Quick, former head of specialist operations at the Met, to review the case.

He said if the PC had asked whether the women were buying drugs from their attackers, “that does imply the officers at the scene were working on some sort of assumption that they either knew the perpetrators or were in some way engaging with them, maybe buying drugs or whatever”.

“If that’s true, then that’s inexcusable,” Mr Quick said. “The police absolutely have a duty to be objective and not to jump to conclusions.”

The women believe racist assumptions undermined the police investigation but the Met denies the claim.

In a statement it said: “This line of questioning should not be considered as an officer making any assumptions or doubting the account given by a victim, and we refute any suggestion that this is what happened in this case.

“Our officers always keep an open mind as to the circumstances of any attack and must build an understanding of the facts.

“From a very early stage, this was treated as a serious racially aggravated assault committed by people unknown to the victims.”

Newsnight also found the police investigation was hampered by a series of serious, basic mistakes.

For nearly two weeks after the attack, no effort was made to recover CCTV, no witness statements were taken, even from the three women who had been attacked and no effort was made to trace a dark-coloured van associated with the men.

By the time the police tried to recover CCTV from shops in Kilburn Lane in early January, footage had been recycled – overwritten by new material.

Ms Farah, who works for a charity that helps ex-prisoners, said she was angry the Met failed to take a statement from her until February – two months after the attack and only after she chased them up. No statements from the other two women attacked – both witnesses – have ever been taken.

Mr Quick said the Met’s response had been “woeful”.

“This was an attack of extreme violence… and it was about compounded by racial motivation, the evidence of which is clear. It had the potential to really impact on community confidence,” he said.

In response to Newsnight’s investigation, the Met has apologised to the women. A spokesperson said the incident “should have been escalated and prioritised at an earlier stage”.

It added “there was a delay in the necessary follow-up enquiries being made just after the incident, and this hindered the subsequent investigation”.

“This shouldn’t have happened, and we are sorry for letting the victims in this case down. This was an appalling attack which should have been investigated with greater urgency.”

Watch Newsnight’s full investigation at 22:45 BST on Wednesday and after that on iPlayer.