Azara Blog: Government humiliated by the courts over 'sham' marriages

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Date published: 2006/04/10

The BBC says:

Tough government rules to prevent sham marriages discriminate against immigrants, the High Court has ruled.

In a significant defeat for the government, Mr Justice Silber said the rules were unreasonable and breached human rights.

Campaigners said the law was discriminatory because it effectively labelled some immigrants as fraudsters.

The judge gave leave to appeal - but the Home Office has partially suspended the rules while it considers its case.

However, Mr Justice Silber's "declaration of incompatibility" against the rules is the most severe defeat the courts can inflict on the government on human rights grounds.

It means ministers must return the law to parliament or take other steps to make sure it is fair.

The rules, introduced in February 2005, mean people born outside the EU and some bordering European nations who have only six months' permission to be in the UK must seek special permission from the Home Office to marry, irrespective of the status of their partner.

The application costs £135 and only 76 specially selected register offices can deal with the proposed marriage. If the home secretary refused permission to marry, there is no right of appeal, other than to apply to the High Court.

The only exemption is for people who marry in the Church of England.

The courts are one of the last bastions between this most wretched of governments and the civilised rule of law. And never mind human rights, the rules are blatantly racist, and could also be deemed an incitement to "religious hatred", something which the government is coincidentally trying to outlaw with a daft and poorly drafted new law (but of course the laws never apply to the government itself, oh no, laws are for the little people).

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