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Public law and Regulation

Case reports and guidance on public law and professional regulation issues

15 APR 2013

R (on the application of Amirifard) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2013] EWHC 279 (Admin); (2013) PLLR 031

Immigration - Naturalisation - Irrationality

The Defendant had been entitled to conclude that the Claimant was not a person of good character, and as such, the decision not to grant his application for naturalisation was held not to be irrational.

19 February 2013

Administrative Court

Lang J

(1)        The Claimant, an Iranian national, challenged the Defendant's decision to refuse his application for naturalisation. In May 2003 the Claimant was granted asylum and then, later, indefinite leave to remain. In January 2010, the Claimant's application for naturalisation was refused on the basis that he was not a person of ‘good character' as set out under the British Nationality Act 1981.

(2)        The Defendant later agreed to re-consider the application, but the Claimant was again refused naturalisation on 8 November 2010. On 4 March 2011, the Defendant issued a fresh decision, confirming that the Claimant's application had been refused. The decision had been made on the basis of the Claimant having been a member of the Iranian army for a period exceeding 3 years and 4 months, and having involved and associated with human rights abuses by being responsible for taking prisoners to their execution. This was said to cast serious doubts on the Claimant's character.

(3)        Under the British Nationality Act 1981, the Secretary of State has discretion to grant an applicant naturalisation if he is ‘of good character' (together with other requirements).

(4)        The Claimant submitted that the Defendant's decision was Wednesbury unreasonable/irrational for the following reasons:

(a)        if the Defendant had properly applied the facts of the Claimant's case to the relevant guidance, she could not rationally or lawfully have concluded that there were serious doubts as to the Claimant's good character because of his association with the Iranian regime;

(b)        the Defendant erred and reached irrational conclusions when assessing the nature and degree of the Claimant's involvement with the Iranian regime and his attempts to disassociate himself from it;

(c)        the Defendant erred in not finding that the defence of duress was open to the Claimant; and

(d)        The Defendant erred in failing to attribute weight to the Claimant's conduct in the UK over the previous 11 years.

(5)        HELD: The Defendant had correctly assessed the Claimant's involvement with the Iranian regime as having being of a low level. The Court nonetheless held that in the absence of a defence, the Claimant's conduct was sufficient to establish criminal liability under Article 25(3)(c) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In the Court's judgment, the Claimant would not be able to establish a defence under the strict rules of the Rome Statute: the Claimant did not suffer from a mental illness so severe to prevent him appreciating the nature of his conduct; he was not subject to a threat of immediate death or serious bodily harm (and therefore could not rely upon duress); and he did not have a defence of superior orders.

(6)        The Defendant was found to have considered the Claimant's evidence to be true, and had taken this into account in making her decision.

(7)        It was not irrational for the Defendant to conclude that the Defendant had failed to sufficiently disassociate himself from the regime.

(8)        The Claimant's good character in the UK was held to be unlikely to be sufficient to overcome the Defendant's doubts as to the Claimant's character, and this conclusion was held not to be irrational.

(9)        The Claimant had not established a mistake of fact amounting to an error of law. The Claimant was therefore found not to have established that the Defendant's decision was irrational. The claim was therefore dismissed.

Claim dismissed

Key paragraphs

[43] - Assessment of role.

[44] - Criminal liability.

[49] - No defence.

[54] - Not establish error of fact.

[57] - Fail to disassociate self.

[60] - Conclusion.

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