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Minor offence can trigger deportation, human rights court confirms


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The European Court of Human Rights has confirmed that the final offence committed by someone before deportation action is taken against them does not need to be particularly significant if they have a history of serious offending. In Munir Johanna v Denmark (application no. 56803/18) and Khan v Denmark (application no. 26957/19) the court has confirmed the earlier decision of Miah v the United Kingdom (application no. 53080/07).

Danish deportation law is quite different from the UK system. The applicants in these cases were issued with suspended deportation orders by the Danish criminal courts following earlier convictions. They then committed further offences and upon conviction were liable to deportation unless doing so would violate Denmark’s international obligations. The conviction that triggered deportation in both cases was relatively minor compared to the earlier convictions.

The court reiterated that although, in principle, there might be a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights if the triggering offence is very minor, it was acceptable to deport the applicants in light of their overall offending:

The Court cannot exclude that it may raise an issue under Article 8 and militate against ordering expulsion if the crime that triggered the expulsion order viewed in isolation cannot be deemed very serious, in particular if the sentence imposed is lenient. Nevertheless, it will be recalled that the assessment of proportionality must be based on a concrete examination of each case, taking into account all the criteria of relevance as established by the Court’s case-law, including the totality of the applicant’s criminal history. It should also be taken into account in this connection that member States have different legislations, not only in respect of criminal sanctions to be imposed for various criminal offences, but also as regards issuing expulsion orders. In some member States, like Denmark, the expulsion order is decided on by the courts in connection with the criminal proceedings relating to the most recent criminal offence, whereas in other member States, for example, such a decision is taken administratively, having regard to the overall criminal behaviour of the alien in question.

The legal context of these cases is very different from the British one, but the decisions confirm that states need not wait for an especially serious offence before launching deportation action against persistent offenders.

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Alex Schymyck

Alex is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers