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Serbian police officer fails in challenge to refusal of British citizenship on character grounds


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Interesting but unsuccessful judicial review of the refusal to grant British citizenship to a former Serbian police officer on good character grounds. The good character refusal was based on his activities as described at paragraph 5 of the judgment:

The Claimant was born on the 8th of August 1981 in Bor in Serbia formerly the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). He is ethnically ‘Kosovo Albanian’. In 1980 his family moved to Pristina in Kosovo. Between 1986 and 1999 he was a career police officer with the Serbian police Force. He was bilingual fluent in both Serbian and Albanian. Critically for present purposes he was employed in the force’s intelligence services and transferred in late 1992 – 1993 to a Kosovo border town Podujevo. On his own case his main duties were electronic surveillance through intercepting, recording and translating calls and passing on reports of those intercepts to other officers although he had no direct role in operational matters arising from the intelligence gathered. His case now is that between 1992 and 1996 his primary sources of information was in respect of criminal gangs involved in drugs, guns, and people smuggling which was rife following the disintegration of the former socialist states the FRY and neighbouring Albania. He had no other operational role. His case now is that he was not aware at the time of his intelligence being used to facilitate any targeted assassinations by the intelligence services or other Serbian state bodies of ethnic Albanians as part of any systematic campaign by the Milošević regime to eradicate any move to Kosovan independence, although in his asylum claim evidence he said he knew that his intelligence was used for such a purpose. This he says in these proceedings was with the benefit of hindsight.

These activities were said to cast “serious doubts” on the applicant’s character because he was associated with international war crimes. This was despite the applicant having been ill and absent from his duties for prolonged periods from 1997 to 1999, he now claimed in protest at those duties.

Ultimately, Mr Justice King finds that the Secretary of State was entitled to take the view she did:

In the round therefore I cannot accept that the approach of the Secretary of State to this application was flawed in law or irrational in the way contended for by the Claimant. Certainly I find the challenge to the ‘serious doubt’ approach to whether an applicant has discharged the burden upon him to satisfy the good character requirement, to be contrary to the established jurisprudence in this field. There is no burden of proof upon the Secretary of State to justify her decision in the way suggested. I accept of course that the Defendant’s conclusion as to there being ‘good reason’ seriously to doubt an applicant’s good character has to be rational and not Wednesbury unreasonable but in my judgement it is impossible to say on the information before her, that she was not entitled to find such good reason in this case.

Source: OM, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Office [2016] EWHC 1588 (Admin) (01 July 2016)

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.