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New Judgment: Secretary of State for the Home Department v SC (Jamaica) [2022] UKSC 15

Written by
Matrix Legal Support Service, UK Supreme Court Blog
Date of Publication:
15 June 2022

The Appellant is a Jamaican national, born in 1991. He came to the UK in December 2001 and has lived here since then. The Appellant's mother is a lesbian who was persecuted by gang members in Jamaica, at whose hands both the Appellant and his mother suffered violence, harassment and assault. The Appellant and his mother were granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK as refugees in October 2003. The Appellant committed several criminal offences between 2005 and 2012. In June 2012, the Appellant was convicted of assault causing actual bodily harm for which he was sentenced to two years in a young offender's institution. As a result, the Appellant is a foreign criminal who qualifies for automatic deportation under the UK Borders Act 2007.

There is a real risk to the Appellant of inhuman or degrading treatment, contrary to article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights in urban but not rural parts of Jamaica. So, the Appellant's deportation to Jamaica by the Secretary of State for the Home Department would be unlawful unless the Appellant "can reasonably be expected to stay" in the rural areas of Jamaica. This is known as "internal relocation".

The issues in this case are as follows:

• Whether the Appellant's criminal conduct is a factor relevant to determining if he could reasonably be expected to stay in a rural area of Jamaica, based on a value judgment of what is "due" to him as a criminal.

• Did the First–tier Tribunal Judge err in holding that the Appellant could not reasonably be expected to stay in a rural area of Jamaica?

• Whether the First–tier Tribunal Judge erred in her assessment of sections 117C(4)(b)–(c) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2003 and para 399A(b)–(c) of the Immigration Rules in finding that the Appellant is socially and culturally integrated in the UK and there would be very significant obstacles to his integration in Jamaica.

• Whether the First–tier Tribunal Judge erred in law in embarking on a freestanding assessment of article 8 ECHR applying the wrong test and failing to give sufficient weight to the public interest in the Appellant's deportation.

Held – Appeal unanimously allowed.

Reasons for the Judgment:

In respect of the first issue, the Court found that the correct approach to the question of internal relocation is a holistic assessment involving specific reference to the individual's personal circumstances, including past persecution, psychological and health conditions, family and social situation and survival capacities. It should not take into account what is "due" to the person as a criminal.

In respect of the second issue, the Court found that the First–tier Tribunal Judge did not err in holding that the Appellant could not reasonably be expected to stay in a rural area of Jamaica, since this was the logical consequence of her findings, based on medical evidence, that the Appellant was in need of long–term psychological treatment. The First–tier Tribunal Judge also relied on her findings that the Appellant had no family or personal connections anywhere in Jamaica, and no familiarity with anywhere outside of Kingston.

In respect of the third issue, the Court found that the First–tier Tribunal Judge did not err in relation to the Appellant's social and cultural integration in the UK, as this is a fact–sensitive determination. Furthermore, the First–tier Tribunal Judge did not err in relation to the "very significant obstacles" to the Appellant's integration in Jamaica, having considered in "meticulous detail" the Appellant's history of mental illness and trauma, and need for long–term psychological care.

In respect of the fourth issue, the Court found no error of law by the First–tier Tribunal Judge on the basis that she is an "expert tribunal judge" who "in substance directed herself in accordance with the applicable statutory test".

The Court allowed all grounds of this appeal.