European Court of Human Rights finds UK in breach of Article 5 over unlawful detention of Zimbabwean national

Friday 23 June 2017

CASE OF S.M.M. v. THE UNITED KINGDOM (Application no. 77450/12). Unlawful Detention- Violation of Article 5 § 1

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The applicant, S.M.M., is a Zimbabwean national who lives in London. Relying on Article 5 § 1 (f) (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention, he claimed that he had been detained unlawfully between November 2008 and September 2011. He was detained during that time on the basis that he was awaiting deportation from the UK. In September 2011, he was released on bail and one year later he was granted asylum in the country.

He argued that the authorities had detained him unlawfully, by failing to apply regulations requiring the release of persons detained under immigration rules who had been victims of torture or who had been suffering from a serious mental illness. He also claimed that it had been unlawful to detain him on the grounds that he had been awaiting deportation, given that there had been a moratorium on enforced removals to Zimbabwe imposed by the Secretary of State up until October 2010. Finally, S.M.M. argued that his detention had been arbitrary and disproportionate, due to its excessive length.

A violation of Article 5 § 1 was found, the Court finding: the Secretary of State should have taken more decisive steps to bring the decision making process swiftly to a close, particularly given his acknowledged vulnerability; that there was a heightened need for the government to process and, ultimately, decide the claim diligently and speedily given the amount of time that the applicant had been in detention, and; emphasising that there was an additional necessity to ensure the effectiveness of the available procedural safeguards and a particular need for the authorities to act with appropriate due diligence in managing the decision making process in a system with no fixed time limits on detention (82-84).

The Court held that the finding of a violation constituted sufficient just satisfaction for any damage suffered by S.M.M. It further awarded him 7,000 euros (EUR) for costs and expenses.

David Jones of the Garden Court Chambers Immigration Team represented SMM.

The full judgment is available: Case of S.M.M. V. The United Kingdom (Application no. 77450/12)


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