A Tory MP has accused the Home Secretary of a ‘dereliction of duty’ that will put the British people at risk. His criticism concerns the way in which she is handling the Abu Qatada case.
Theresa May won permission this week to appeal against the Special Immigration Appeals Commission’s decision to block the deportation of Abu Qatada to Jordan. But the Home Office has confirmed in a letter to Tory MP Mark Reckless, seen by Coffee House, that it will base its strategy for the case on the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which rejected the Islamist cleric’s appeal in May, rather than the test confirmed by the House of Lords in Othman v SSHD 2010, when the House of Lords was at that time the highest court in the land for this country.
Reckless had asked the Home Secretary for assurance that she would plead in the appeal that it was the House of Lords test which binds the Court of Appeal and must be applied. The reply from May says:
‘As you will appreciate, our strategy in the case has been carefully considered at every stage by Government lawyers and leading counsel. A decision was taken to adopt the test laid down in January by the Strasbourg court, essentially because we considered the domestic courts were bound to follow it, and moreover if we are to win it would remove the opportunity for Qatada to re-open the case in Strasbourg.’
The letter says that if the test applied by the House of Lords was used, ‘it would be open to Qatada to go back to Strasbourg, where he would inevitably get a further rule 39 indication restraining his removal pending a further hearing, so in practice we would be no further forward’. It adds:
‘Our arguments before the Court of Appeal are that SIAC misinterpreted and misapplied the Strasbourg test in various respects. I assure you that we will pursue the appeal vigorously. At the same time we are actively pursuing with the Jordanians a range of options to deal with the concerns identified by SIAC and thus permit Qatada’s removal as soon as possible.’
Reckless is horrified that the Home Office is submitting to the Strasbourg court, saying:
‘I see no reason why the Home Secretary should handicap herself by having Strasbourg approval. I think it’s a dereliction of duty, it’s putting people on our streets in danger.’
He told Coffee House that there was ‘no reason’ not to use the House of Lords’s test in the case.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
‘We are committed to removing Abu Qatada and we believe our approach, based upon legal advice, is the most effective one. We considered that the UK courts would have been bound to follow the Strasbourg test and applying a different test would have added further delay. Our position is that the Strasbourg test was misapplied by SIAC and the Court of Appeal have given us permission to appeal on that basis.’