Dog whistles, bogus cats and what the public really think about human rights
04 October 2011
Today Liberty rubbished the Home Secretary’s example of an illegal immigrant who could not be deported because he had a cat. The story, which Theresa May preceded with ‘I’m not making this up’ is actually a case where the Home Office conceded it had failed to apply its own policy to a man with a British partner.
The Bolivian – who was neither a criminal nor an illegal entrant – had been with his partner for four years. He argued he should have benefited from a Home Office policy giving credit to couples who had been together for more than two years. Both the initial judge and the Senior Immigration Judge made clear that he should benefit from that policy and be granted the right to remain. The Home Office representative at the hearing conceded that the policy did apply. Joint ownership of a cat was one small detail amongst many commonly given by couples seeking to prove a genuine relationship.
Liberty also released polling data that shows mass support (93%) for a law that protects rights and freedoms in Britain. The ComRes polling, commissioned by Liberty, should send a clear message to the Government about the importance of the Human Rights Act.
Rather than promoting myths and misunderstandings about the legislation, Liberty challenged the Government to do more to educate the public about their fundamental rights and freedoms - less than a tenth of respondents (9%) remember ever having received or seen information from the Government explaining the Act.
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:
“I had thought rather better of this Home Secretary than her dog whistle conference speech today. It is dangerously unbecoming of a Cabinet Minister to misrepresent court judgments- especially where her own department conceded this case on appeal. No one got to stay because of a cat. She well knows that the Human Rights Act leaves the last word on immigration control to Parliament. Perhaps tomorrow the Prime Minister will explain how he is going to scrap the HRA without ceding more decisions to European judges in Strasbourg. Why put your party at odds with 93 per cent of people polled who value human rights protection in this country?”
Key findings from the polling include:
95% believe that respect for privacy and family life is vital or important
96% of respondents believe the right to a fair trial is vital or important
90% believe the right not to be tortured or degraded is vital or important
Contact: Liberty’s press office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. ComRes interviewed 1007 GB adults by telephone between 20 and 21 September 2011. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British polling council and abides by its rules. For a copy of the full findings, please contact Liberty’s press office on 020 7378 3656.
2. The Bolivian man came to the UK as a student and had been living with his partner for four years at the time of his appeal. He applied for permission to remain in the UK on the basis of a Home Office policy (DP3/96 - since withdrawn), under which someone in a relationship with a person settled in the UK for more than 2 years could apply to stay here. His evidence of his relationship included the fact that he and his partner had had a cat together for several years. His application was refused by the Home Secretary and he appealed. The key issue was whether the policy DP3/96 should still apply to him. The judge that first considered the case held that it did. On appeal before Senior Immigration Judge Gleeson the Home Office representative conceded that the Home Office had misunderstood its own policy and that he was entitled to remain here under DP3/96. Judge Gleeson therefore ruled in the man’s favour and that any failings in the decision by the first judge, including too much consideration of the shared cat, were immaterial.