The UK’s highest courts have ruled that Theresa May broke the law twice in the last month

Theresa May
Emily Apple

For the second time in the space of a month, the UK’s courts have ruled that Theresa May broke the law during her time in the Home Office.

On 25 May, the Court of Appeal ruled that she had broken the law over the treatment of refugees, including children, on the British Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) in Cyprus. And now, on 14 June, the Supreme Court has ruled that May’s flagship policy of “deport first, appeal later” is unlawful.

Breaching human rights

The most recent case in the Supreme Court was brought by two men who were deported after having served prison sentences for drug-related offences. Both men had been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. And both had strong family ties to the UK.

But May ordered that the men should be deported to Jamaica and Kenya on their release from prison; and that, if they wanted to appeal the decision, it could be done from these countries.

Now, the Supreme Court has said this was unlawful because it contravened the European Convention of Human Rights. Namely Article 8, the right to family and private life.

In particular, the court ruled that:

  • The men and their lawyers would face difficulties in giving and receiving instructions before and during an appeal hearing.
  • A factor in an effective appeal is the ability of the applicant to give live evidence on their family ties in the UK and whether they are a reformed character.
  • Evidence via video link may suffice. However, the financial and logistical barriers to giving evidence that way from abroad are insurmountable.


A separate case in the Court of Appeal centred on 75 people (including children) who were washed up on the SBA after their boat got into difficulty off the coast in 1998. Initially detained for some months, they were granted refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

But since then, they have been living in increasingly deteriorating conditions. According to a press release from the families’ solicitors Leigh Day:

For the last 18 years the six refugee claimants and their nineteen children have had to endure deteriorating living conditions on the SBA where they are housed in ex-military accommodation which was due to be demolished in 1997. Many of the children have spent their whole lives on the SBA.

Theresa May became involved in 2014 when, as Home Secretary, she refused to take legal responsibility for the families. And despite the fact that the families were granted refugee status, May argued that this did not extend to the SBA. She therefore argued that the families had no right to resettlement in the UK.

But the Court of Appeal found that the SBA was indeed covered by the convention. As such, the UK had a direct responsibility for the families there. Leigh Day explains:

In a unanimous decision the Court of Appeal has today (25 May 2017) found that Theresa May acted unlawfully by refusing to consider allowing entry to the UK to a group of refugee families stranded on the British Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) in Cyprus.


In both cases, May apparently acted with a complete lack of compassion. As Home Secretary, she seemed happy to accept children living in appalling conditions and to split up families without a fair hearing.

It is a damning indictment of the Prime Minister that twice within a month she has been found breaching the law on immigration. And it is a damning indictment of the way her government treats refugees and immigrants.

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