Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

Making defendants give their nationality “undermines criminal justice”


Older content is locked

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing the information on Free Movement, become a member of Free Movement to get unlimited access to all articles, and much, much more


By becoming a member of Free Movement, you not only support the hard-work that goes into maintaining the website, but get access to premium features;

  • Single login for personal use
  • FREE downloads of Free Movement ebooks
  • Access to all Free Movement blog content
  • Access to all our online training materials
  • Access to our busy forums
  • Downloadable CPD certificates

The requirement for criminal defendants to give their nationality in court is corrupting the justice system and gives the impression of bias against ethnic minorities, a new report has found. Commons, a non-profit criminal defence firm, says that the rule — authorised by section 162 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 — is detested by criminal lawyers and judges and should be reviewed immediately with a view to abolition.

The report bills itself as the first examination of the effects of the “nationality requirement” since it was introduced in 2017. The headline findings:

  • A startling 96% of the 134 criminal lawyers surveyed opposed the policy.
  • Around 60% of lawyers reported clients regularly being confused by the requirement, giving their ethnicity instead of or as well as their nationality.
  • Two thirds of cases where the nationality requirement is overlooked involve white defendants.
  • There were zero prosecutions for failing to provide nationality in 2018.

One court is reportedly engaged in a sort of civil disobedience, refusing to ask the nationality question in open court at all “because of their objection to the policy”.

The practice also leads to a general mockery of the court process, with defendants giving their nationality as “Shepherd” or “Martian”. The troubled ex-footballer, Paul Gascoigne, reportedly answered “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant”.

The reports concludes that “the policy is undermining criminal justice and the rule of law” and affecting the “perception of fairness in the justice system”. It calls for the nationality requirement to be urgently reviewed by the government, or challenged in the courts.

Relevant articles chosen for you
CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.