The evil lurking in clause 23 of the Nationality and Borders Bill

Immigration and asylum law is notoriously complicated and constantly changing.

In a recent Gresham College lecture, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave referred to an estimate from 2013 that immigration legislation and rules ran to over a million words – more than the total number of words in the Harry Potter series. In a case from the same year Lord Justice Jackson described the Immigration Rules and their numerous appendices as “having achieved a degree of complexity which even the Byzantine emperors would have envied.”

Things have got worse since 2013.

In 2017 a senior Immigration Judge described immigration law as:

A total nightmare. I don’t suppose the judges know any more about it than the appellants who appear before them.”

One of the very few people in the country who does know more than most appellants or judges is Colin Yeo. As he points out on his superb blog, statutory immigration law – not including the voluminous rules and codes of practice – is now divided between Acts from 1971, 1988, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014 and 2016. Each Act amends and re-amends existing legislation, thus adding yet further layers of complexity. Since he wrote that post, Brexit legislation has produced yet more statutory accretions.

The latest horror about to arrive is the Nationality and Borders Bill. Continue reading “The evil lurking in clause 23 of the Nationality and Borders Bill”

A massacre is imminent in Syria. What are we going to do about it?

I can’t bring myself to blog about the law today. The situation in Syria is so dire that it seems almost frivolous to write about anything else.

Tens of thousands civilians face imminent massacre. In fact, imminent is probably not the right word: they are being massacred as you read this.

Meanwhile the stand-off between Presidents Erdogan and Putin has led us into perhaps the most dangerous international crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The West has made a series of disastrous decisions and it will require inspirational leadership or good luck to avoid a regional disaster turning into a global catastrophe.

Unfortunately, in recent years Western leadership has been dismal and most of the luck has been bad.

President Obama – to whom, as American President, much of the rest of the world looks for leadership, has been a terrible disappointment. How excited we were to see such a civilised man in the White House; he promised so much. It seemed a little premature when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few months after assuming office, but one understood that the Nobel Committee was reflecting the excitement of the time.

Yet decent men can sometimes make bad decisions and with hindsight Obama’s 2013 decision not to punish President Assad for using nerve gas to kill at least 500 people, many of them children, has had terrible consequences. Not only did it allow Assad to survive in power, it also signalled to the world that you could not rely upon America’s promises, and indicated to Russia that it would henceforth have a free hand in Syria.

Of British politicians, strangely enough it is not so much Mr Cameron as Ed Miliband who must shoulder much of the responsibility for getting our response to Syrian events so badly wrong. In 2013 Mr Cameron proposed military action against Assad. Mr Miliband opposed his plans, and his arguments carried the day. Continue reading “A massacre is imminent in Syria. What are we going to do about it?”

Why is it wrong to overturn wrongful convictions, Mr Bone?

It is a pretty safe bet that whenever Peter Bone MP opines on the criminal justice system he is wrong. He has voted to lower the abortion limit to 12 weeks, to retain the criminal offence of blasphemy and to reintroduce the death penalty (although not for blasphemy). One of his typical interventions last year was to sponsor a bill which would have forced judges to pass lengthy prison sentences even when they knew that it would be unjust to do so.

In fairness to him, he is wrong about plenty of other things too. In 2010 he signed an Early Day Motion in support of homeopathy (Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott were fellow signatories, as well as the completely barmy Conservative MP David Tredinnick, who believes in astrology). Continue reading “Why is it wrong to overturn wrongful convictions, Mr Bone?”