Straw told he cannot deport man suing him

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The Independent Online
THE HOME Secretary, Jack Straw, suffered an embarrassing High Court defeat yesterday after ordering the deportation of an asylum seeker who was suing him for malicious prosecution.

A judge ruled that Mr Straw was wrong to order the removal from Britain of John Quaquah, a Ghanaian who is claiming damages for being wrongfully accused of rioting at a detention centre. Mr Quaquah, who is also suing the private security company Group 4, hopes to win a settlement of pounds 15,000, which would enable him to start a new life, possibly in the United States.

Yesterday's judgment was the third legal defeat suffered by the Home Secretary over immigration issues. A court ruled in July that Britain's policy of jailing asylum seekers who arrive with false passports was unlawful. In another ruling the same month, the Court of Appeal said Britain was wrong to deport to France and Germany asylum seekers who had arrived from those countries.

Yesterday the High Court quashed Mr Straw's decision to deport Mr Quaquah on the grounds that it failed to pay regard to his right under the European Convention of Human Rights to a fair trial. Lawyers for the asylum seeker successfully argued that it would be impossible for him to fight his case on equal terms if he was deported to Ghana.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Turner ruled: "It was demonstrable that the Secretary of State was, albeit unintentionally, putting difficulties in the way of the applicant being able to get his case together for the purposes of a trial. It was this which could give rise to an appearance of bias in the decision to refuse exceptional leave to remain."

Mr Quaquah was accused of rioting after a disturbance at the Campsfield Detention Centre, near Oxford, in August 1997. He and eight other African asylum seekers were acquitted when the trial collapsed in June 1998. The prosecution decided not to pursue the case further after staff from Group 4 gave contradictory evidence to the court.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Turner said: "It was accepted on behalf of the Secretary of State that the conduct of Group 4 officers both during the incident of unrest itself as well as their conduct in giving unreliable/false evidence satisfied the description of having been `wicked'."

Last night supporters of Mr Quaquah, who lives in Oxford, said he would remain in Britain for two to three years fighting his case. At the conclusion of the case he would be deported because his asylum application has failed, they said.

Mr Quaquah, a political dissident, said: "Even though they charged us, we had done nothing wrong. The way that Group 4 treats detainees is not the correct way. Campsfield is not a detention centre, it is a prison."

His solicitor, Mark Scott, of Bhatt Murphy in London, said his client would now be able to fight his case on an "even playing field".

The Home Office said Mr Straw would be "carefully examining" the judgment.