High court quashes decision to refuse citizenship to teenager

Tuesday 15 July 2014

On Friday 11 July, the High Court allowed a judicial review of a decision to refuse to register as a British citizen a 14 year old, known as FI, who had been settled with Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) in the UK for eight years and was coming up to his GCSEs.

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The decision maker had treated the fact that neither parent was British as determinative of the application. That raised some questions about how the Chapter 9 Nationality Instructions guidance on the discretionary registration of children had been interpreted and whether the exercise of the discretion had been compatible with the s55 duty. This duty stipulates the need to make arrangements for ensuring that functions, including nationality functions, are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the United Kingdom. FI contended that either the policy was capable of being interpreted in a s55-compliant way but had been misapplied in this case, or that the rigid approach taken by the decision makers was driven by the policy and thus the policy was unlawful because it ‘herded’ the decision makers to an unlawful decision.

This helpful judgment, although decided on a narrow basis, confirms that Chapter 9 is to be read alongside – and tempered by - the statutory s55 guidance ‘Every Child Matters’. The judgment reiterates the importance of the ‘less tangible’ benefits of citizenship for children, which include a sense of belonging and certainty about their future, and it provides a useful example of a flawed approach to an important issue for a child – whether they belong to a country which is so much a part of them.

Amanda was instructed to represent FI by Sumiya Hemsi of Birnberg Peirce & Partners.

The judgment can be found here: R (ota FI by his litigation friend GI) v Secretary of state for the Home Department [2014] EWHC 2287 (Admin)

Amanda Weston is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Public and Administrative Law Team.

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