Theresa May yesterday declared war on judges who refuse to deport foreign criminals because of their human rights.
The Home Secretary said the courts should stop allowing overseas prisoners, law-breakers and illegal immigrants to stay in Britain on the grounds that they have a right to a family life.
She promised a vote in Parliament to ram home to judges ‘what the public believe’ and persuade them ‘to take into account what Parliament has said’.
Failure by the judiciary to listen will result in new laws to curb the exploitation of the human rights legislation by foreign criminals, Mrs May said.
Her move to take on the courts – to be launched in a Commons statement tomorrow – met with criticism from sceptical Tory backbenchers who believe statements in Parliament will not be enough to rein in the judges.
A leading immigration pressure group added that Britain would need to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights before Parliament could regain the right to set immigration law.
Mrs May’s attack follows a decade of frustration for successive Home Secretaries at the refusal of courts to uphold immigration rules.
Most recently there has been outrage over cases in which criminals have avoided deportation by pleading that their removal would breach the family life clause of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Among them was Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, a failed asylum seeker and repeat offender who ran down and killed 12-year-old Amy Houston – and fled the scene – while disqualified from driving.
A judge subsequently allowed him to remain here because he had two children with a British woman.
Figures show that more than 100 criminals a month whom ministers hope to deport are released from jail to go free on the streets. They routinely plead they have a right to a family life here.
Last autumn Mrs May opened her battle with the judiciary at the Tory conference when she spoke of a case in which a judge took into account a pet cat as a reason to allow an illegal immigrant to stay.
The clause repeatedly used by foreign offenders is Article Eight of the Convention, which says that everyone has a ‘right to private and family life’.
The clause, enshrined in British law by the Human Rights Act, has become a catch-all used to prevent the deportation of criminals, block the prosecution of those who help sick relatives commit suicide, and even suppress the public exposure of footballers who cheat on their wives.
Mrs May told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘What I’m going to do is actually set out the rules that say this is what Parliament, this is what the public believe is how you balance the public interest against the individual’s interest.’
She said lawyers had complained that the courts had not been given clear Parliamentary guidance on what the right to a family life should be. ‘Parliament is going to set that out,’ she said.
‘We are not just making it as a Government statement. We are going to ask Parliament to vote on this, to say very clearly what we think constitutes the right to a family life.
‘I would expect that judges will look at what Parliament will say and that they will follow and take into account what Parliament has said. If they don’t then we will have to look at other measures and that could include Parliamentary legislation.’
But some senior Tory back- benchers doubted that a vote by MPs would make an impact.
Dominic Raab said: ‘Ministers are right to tackle the abuse of Article Eight by foreign criminals. But tinkering with guidance and resolutions of the House of Commons won’t stem the judicial legislation. As the Lord Chief Justice has pointed out, it will take an Act of Parliament to stop the rot.’
Sir Andrew Green, of the Migrationwatch think-tank, said: ‘If the judges won’t listen to Parliament we must look again at our membership of the European Court of Human Rights.’
n Immigrants will no longer be able to live on benefits by marrying a British citizen, Mrs May said yesterday. She promised rules to stop husbands or wives bringing a spouse or family into the country from outside Europe unless they have an income of £18,600.
The family migration income threshold will rise to £27,200 if there are three children.
Mrs May said £18,600 was ‘the point at which people would not normally be reliant on income related benefits’, adding: ‘We think it is right that somebody who is wanting to bring somebody into the UK to join them as a spouse or a partner should be able to support them financially.’