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Court of Appeal dismisses appeal against deportation by woman who has lived in the UK since 1985


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The Court of Appeal has rejected the appeal against deportation of a woman who was sentenced to less than four years and who has lived in the UK for almost 40 years. The court said that it is not necessary for the Upper Tribunal to mention factors when making a decision in relation to very compelling circumstances in a deportation case (under section 117(6)), where those factors have already been considered when deciding on whether the exceptions in section 117C apply. The case is Akhtar v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2024] EWCA Civ 354.


Mrs Akhtar was born in Pakistan in 1961 and moved to the UK in 1985 when she married her husband, a British citizen. She was granted indefinite leave to remain in June 2000. Mrs Akhtar and her husband have five adult children who are all British citizens.

On 21 April 2016 Mrs Akhtar and her husband were convicted of various criminal offences relating to mortgage fraud and Mrs Akhtar was sentenced to four years and three months’ imprisonment. That sentence comprised a mix of consecutive and concurrent sentences, the longest of which was 30 months. On 6 September 2018 the Home Secretary made a decision that Mrs Akhtar should be deported to Pakistan.

Appeals to the tribunal

The First-tier Tribunal dismissed the appeal, and it seems that a Cart judicial review then took place following which the Upper Tribunal set aside the First-tier Tribunal’s decision. The error found was that the First-tier Tribunal had mistakenly thought that Mrs Akhtar had received one sentence of over four years and had as a result applied the wrong statutory test.

The Upper Tribunal re-heard the appeal and dismissed it on 22 October 2022. Mrs Akhtar’s solicitors withdrew around a week before the hearing and the Upper Tribunal refused her request for an adjournment to allow her to instruct a new firm which had said that they would not have time to prepare for the hearing.

Mrs Akhtar gave evidence via an Urdu interpreter and represented herself at the hearing, assisted by her son who addressed the tribunal on her behalf. Evidence was provided about the reliance of one of her adult sons, who cannot stand unaided, on Mrs Akhtar. Evidence was also provided about Mrs Akhtar’s depression and obsessive compulsive disorder and the heightened risk of suicide if she was deported to Pakistan.

Mrs Akhtar was considered a medium offender, as she had not been sentenced to over four years, the legislation expressly says at section 117D(4)(b) that consecutive sentences do not count. Under section 117C of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 deportation was considered to be in the public interest unless one of the following exceptions applied:

(4) Exception 1 applies where—

(a) C has been lawfully resident in the United Kingdom for most of C’s life,

(b) C is socially and culturally integrated in the United Kingdom, and

(c) there would be very significant obstacles to C’s integration into the country to which C is proposed to be deported.

(5) Exception 2 applies where C has a genuine and subsisting relationship with a qualifying partner, or a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with a qualifying child, and the effect of C’s deportation on the partner or child would be unduly harsh.

(6) In the case of a foreign criminal who has been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of at least four years, the public interest requires deportation unless there are very compelling circumstances, over and above those described in Exceptions 1 and 2.

Following NA (Pakistan) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2016] EWCA Civ 662 s117C(6) should be read as though it also applies to medium offenders.

The Upper Tribunal found that Mrs Akhtar was not socially and culturally integrated into the UK, as she had only started learning English once in prison. She was only integrated into her small religious and cultural community, donations from which had been used to finance the crimes she and her husband were convicted of. The tribunal concluded that there would be no very significant obstacles to her reintegration in Pakistan.

It was accepted that Mrs Akhtar had a genuine and subsisting relationship with her husband, who is to be released from prison this year. However the tribunal concluded that the effect of her deportation on him would not be unduly harsh. They had been separated during his imprisonment and could continue to stay in touch as they had during that period.

The Upper Tribunal concluded that although Mrs Akhtar was not a serious offender, there was a strong interest in her deportation. The tribunal concluded that her “strong private and family life” did not outweigh this and the appeal was dismissed.

The Court of Appeal

The sole ground of appeal was that the Upper Tribunal had not considered all relevant circumstances when making its decision under section 117C(6) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, on very compelling circumstances. For example, there was no reference to Mrs Akhtar’s very long period of residence in the UK or the low risk of re-offending.

In relation to the tribunal’s lack of reference to a letter from Mrs Akhtar’s probation officer, the Court of Appeal said that:

It is clear from HA (Iraq) (see paragraph 35, above) that while the weight to be given to evidence of rehabilitation is for the tribunal, evidence that an appellant has not committed any further offences is ‘likely to be of little or no material weight’. While, also, a tribunal can give some weight to evidence of positive rehabilitation which reduces the risk of re-offending, that will ‘rarely’ be ‘great’. Lord Hamblen warned that tribunals should also be cautious about making findings that the risk of re-offending is low. [at 75]

The Court of Appeal did not accept that the Upper Tribunal was required to list all the factors that it had taken into account when considering the exceptions again when deciding whether there were very compelling circumstances. “I also bear in mind that it is not for this court to make decision-making for the tribunals any more difficult or complicated than it already is, as Underhill LJ said in Yalcin” [at 73]. The court went on to say that if it was incorrect on the point that all factors did not need to be listed and the Upper Tribunal had in fact erred, then that error was immaterial.

The appeal was therefore dismissed.


I find it very troubling that the Upper Tribunal twice refused an adjournment request from an appellant where it seems she had solicitors ready to act but who were unable to be fully prepared given they were instructed a week before the hearing. This concern is exacerbated given this was a deportation matter and the appellant did not speak much English. The fact that it was a hearing in the Upper Tribunal makes it even worse as the decision is that much more difficult to challenge in the Court of Appeal, as we have seen here.

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Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.


4 Responses

  1. Is the husband a British citizen? Is the appellant to be separated from the rest of her immediate family?

  2. This is troubling on a number of fronts not least the ones mentioned. if she couldnt speak English then it sounds as though she was just signing on the dotted line for her husband, which is not an unfamiliar scenario in sub-continent households. Hence there must have been issues re her own actual intent and her overall culpability in the criminal proceedings and i wonder whether this was run as part of the defence. As part of the deportation proceedings rather than these being matters going against her they should actually have assisted her as well. if she couldn’t read, write or speak the language and was just signing on the dotted line being a compliant wife, what public interest is served in deporting her? or is her real crime not learning the language and acculturating!

  3. Thank you Sonia for the summary. I act for Mrs Akhtar. Our grounds of appeal, when seeking PTA from the CA, included the issue of the UT refusing to adjourn (even for a short period) to allow Mrs Akhtar to instruct TRP and to be represented at her hearing (permission to appeal on that ground was refused by the CA).
    UTJ Mandalia refused an adjournment stating the case was ‘ready to go’ (bundles were in / skele had been done) and that TRP could take the case on and get counsel (Alasdair Mackenzie, who had been briefed to attend the hearing by the previous firm), to just turn up. We applied again. telling UTJ Mandalia that TRP was neither merely a post box nor merely a conduit for counsel’s fees. The case was listed before 2 UTJs, listed for 2 days, involved several witnesses, a significant volume of evidence and was complex, factually and legally. But clearly the UT (and CA) thought that her son ‘representing’ her was ok….
    Two further points if I may. First, it is wholly disingenuous of Males LJ to ‘put the boot in’ as it were by adding to the end of the judgment: “It is not a legitimate ground of appeal to this court that the UT has failed to take matters into account when it was never asked to do so and when it has addressed fully the submissions which were made to it.”: (a) Laing LJ granted PTA on this ground (having refused PTA on all the other grounds) after a contested oral hearing(!) and (b) there were no ‘submissions’ to the UT as she was not represented at the hearing….!
    Second, the courts have lost sight of the fact that this woman was brought to the UK a very long time ago. She bore her husband’s children, and looked after the family home all these years. She is criticised for not integrating into UK society (as noted her English was very poor), yet she is convicted of significant and complex mortgage fraud (which presumably involved some paperwork?!). She could have qualified for British citizenship decades ago but this was not done.

    1. Sean, it is deeply troubling that she was convicted of the complex mortgage fraud without being able to read or speak English. in sub-continent households it is not unusual for women to simply sign anything that their partner’s put before them. i speak an an insider. I wonder whether whether any expert evidence was called on this in the criminal trial. it sounds shocking that someone like her would have been convicting of a complex fraud like this without having the ability herself to understand just what she was doing. given this scenario and despite the conviction, it is still surprising that she didnt get a suspended sentence and to top it all off the immigration courts have decided to put the final nail in the coffin for her.

      Are there any grounds for taking this to the supreme court?