Fresh blow for Government over Abu Qatada deportation

Now Theresa May must ask permission from the Supreme Court to appeal to it directly

The Government suffered another blow today in its long-running battle to deport hate preacher Abu Qatada from the UK.

Despite the latest setback it immediately vowed to continue the legal fight to remove the terror suspect to Jordan.

Last month, Court of Appeal judges in London backed an earlier ruling that Qatada, also known as Omar Othman, could not be deported over fears that evidence obtained through torture would be used against him.

It was announced today that the Court of Appeal has refused permission for the Home Secretary to challenge March's ruling at the highest Court in the land.

But the Government is to persist with its bid by applying directly to the Supreme Court for permission.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are disappointed with the Court of Appeal's decision but will now request permission to appeal directly from the Supreme Court.

"The Government remains committed to deporting this dangerous man and we continue to work with the Jordanians to address the outstanding legal issues preventing deportation."

The Supreme Court process involves consideration by three justices of a permission to appeal application.

They decide whether or not the application raises a point of law of general public importance.

At the Court of Appeal last month, Home Secretary Theresa May's lawyers had challenged a ruling made last November by immigration judges on the grounds that Qatada was a "truly dangerous" individual who had escaped deportation through "errors of law".

But three appeal judges said the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) was entitled to conclude that disputed statements will be used against Qatada.

Qatada, who featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the 9/11 bombers, has ultimately thwarted every attempt by the Government to put him on a plane.

A resident in the UK since September 1993, he was returned to jail last month after he was arrested for alleged bail breaches.

A hearing over whether he should be granted bail again was due to be held last month, but was delayed.

Police searched Qatada's family home in London before he was held and have since said that he is being investigated over extremist material.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said after today's decision was announced: "A year ago, Theresa May promised Abu Qatada would soon be on a plane.

"Now it is clear her legal strategy has completely failed. The Home Secretary must tell us urgently what she is going to do now to get Abu Qatada deported or tried, and keep him off our streets."

PA