Tunisian criminal living in NI has deportation appeal rejected

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A foreign criminal who asked the UK’s highest court to block his deportation on human rights grounds has lost his appeal.

Seven Supreme Court justices in London announced their unanimous decision yesterday in the case of Tunisian Zouhair Makhlouf, 45, who lives in Northern Ireland and has committed offences of grievous bodily harm and possession of an offensive weapon.

It was argued on his behalf that removing him from the UK would be incompatible with his right to a family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

One of the issues at the heart of the case was whether the home secretary had failed properly to consider the Article 8 rights and “best interests” of his two children – and if so, whether that meant the decision to deport him in 2012 was “not in accordance with the law”.

The appeal brought by Makhlouf was dismissed by Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger, deputy president Lady Hale, and Lords Kerr, Wilson, Reed, Hughes and Thomas.

Giving the main judgment, Lord Kerr said: “Where a decision is taken about the deportation of a foreign criminal who has children residing in this country, separate consideration of their best interests is obviously required, especially if they do not converge with those of the parent to be deported.”

In a case of a child with a dual ethnic background, “that factor requires to be closely examined” and the child’s interests “must rank as a primary consideration”.

The question in the case was whether the home secretary was “in fact provided with sufficient material on which to make a proper judgment” on the Article 8 rights of Makhlouf and his children.

Lord Kerr said: “All the evidence on this issue leads unmistakably to the conclusion that the appellant did not enjoy any relationship with either of his children and that they had led lives which were wholly untouched by the circumstance that he was their father.”

Makhlouf married a UK citizen from Northern Ireland in 1996. She gave birth to a daughter the following year and he was granted indefinite leave to remain in 1999.

He and his wife separated, but he remained in the UK and lived with another partner, who gave birth to a son in 2006.