Belfast Telegraph

Criminal loses legal bid to halt deportation to Tunisia from NI

By Cathy Gordon

A foreign criminal who asked the UK's highest court to block his deportation from Northern Ireland on human rights grounds has failed in his appeal.

Seven Supreme Court justices in London announced their unanimous decision yesterday in the case of Tunisian Zouhair Makhlouf (45).

Makhlouf, who lives in the province, has a criminal record that includes a conviction at Belfast Crown Court in 2005 for two counts of assault causing grievous bodily harm and possession of an offensive weapon. A prison sentence of three years and three months was imposed.

Makhlouf was subsequently convicted at Enniskillen Magistrates Court of disorderly behaviour in 2009 and 2011.

In between those two cases he was found guilty of three counts of breaching a non-molestation order, assaulting police and resisting arrest.

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.

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.

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".

But 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."

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."

Lady Hale pointed out: "The problem in this case is that it is the appellant who is treating the children as a passport to his own rights, rather than as right-holders in their own right."

She said: "There is nothing at all to suggest that the best interests of these children require that their father should remain in the United Kingdom.

"Of course there will be cases where fuller enquiries are warranted or where the best interests of children do outweigh the public interest in deportation or removal. This is emphatically not one of them."

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