Duncan Lewis Immigration Solicitors win Poloko Hiri High Court Case in relation to British Citizenship Naturalisation- Refusal on Good Character Grounds- Judicial Review

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Legal 500 recommended Immigration Solicitors Duncan Lewis today won the case of Poloko Hiri, a Botswanian "Sapper" in the British Army who was refused British citizenship due to a "minor speeding offence".*

Our argument was simply that a man who gave his life to fight for this country, and in every other way but for one speeding offence, showed good character, should not be deprived of British Citizenship.

*Poloko Hiri v SSHD [2014] EWHC 254 (Admin)

The High Court today ruled in favour of a distinguished former member of the British Armed Forces who had been refused British Citizenship by the Home Office on the basis of a sole speeding offence for which he received 5 points and a £100 fine.*

Mr Poloko Hiri, a national of Botswana, had been described by senior military figures as an “intelligent, motivated and hard-working soldier” with an “exemplary record of conduct”, who “had his character put to the test (…) where his peers have had to depend on him in austere and challenging environments.” Despite that evidence, the Secretary of State repeatedly asserted that Mr Hiri was not of “good character”, insisting on the basis of his "minor" speeding offence.*

According to High Court judgement which was publicly handed down today, the High Court held that the Secretary of State’s “decision-making process was legally flawed” and has set out that she should “re-consider her decision in accordance with the law”. Mrs Justice Lang DBE warned against the Secretary of State applying her policy on the determination of ‘good character’ in a “mechanistic and inflexible” way and set out that the Secretary of State “must consider all aspects of the applicant’s character” where “the statutory test is not whether applicants have previous criminal convictions – it is much wider in scope than that.”

In this case, the High Court has held that Home Office official “deliberately excluded from his consideration the circumstances of the offence and the mitigating factors”.

The Home Office frequently insisted in this case, in line with her policy, that it could not “overlook” or “disregard” Mr Hiri’s offence.* However, Mr Hiri had repeatedly made clear to the Secretary of State that he took full responsibility for the offence and accepted that it must be taken into account; he simply asked to have that conviction weighed in the balance against all of the evidence he had provided, in order to assess his character as a whole. The holistic approach advocated by Mr Hiri has been upheld by the High Court today.*

Mrs Justice Lang DBE has set out that in these cases “The Defendant is entitled to adopt a policy on the way in which criminal convictions will normally be considered by her caseworkers, but it should not be applied mechanistically and inflexibly. There has to be a comprehensive assessment of each applicant’s character, as an individual, which involves an exercise of judgment, not just ticking boxes on a form.”

Toufique Hossain, Public and Immigration Law Director at Duncan Lewis and solicitor in the case says:

“Those who will read this judgment will see that the Judge applied fairness and common sense to this case. Our argument was simply that a man who gave his life to fight for this country, and in every other way but for one speeding offence, showed good character, should not be deprived of British Citizenship. It is a shame this had to go all the way to the High Court. We are grateful to the British Armed Forces and to Veteran’s Aid for all their support for our client.”

Mr Hiri was represented by Raza Halim of Garden Court Chambers and as his Solicitor; Toufique Hossain of Duncan Lewis.

About Duncan Lewis

Duncan Lewis, established in 1998, is the largest civil legal aid practice in the UK and one of the country's fastest growing firms of solicitors, serving both corporate entities and private individuals from offices across London and throughout the UK. A recommended leading law firm by Law Society Lexcel, Legal 500; Duncan Lewis employs over 500 members of staff and was the first law firm to achieve the Investors in People Gold Quality Standard Mark in 2009. Representing over 25,000 clients per year, the company has an excellent reputation in the Administrative Court, High Court and Court of Appeal in the Immigration, Public law and Family/Child Care jurisdictions.

Established areas of law are: business immigration, child care, civil liberties, clinical negligence, community care, crime and fraud, dispute resolution, debt and insolvency, employment, family and divorce, housing, asylum and immigration, litigation, mental health, personal injury, prison law, professional negligence, public law and administrative law, regulatory matters and welfare benefits.

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Jason Bruce
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since: 02/2010
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