Rapist's wedding halts deportation

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The Independent Online

A convicted rapist facing deportation has won a High Court battle to be allowed to stay in the country to get married.

Alphonse Semo, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, threw his victim on a rubbish tip when he had finished with her.



But yesterday evening he won the right to remain for his wedding just hours before he was due to board a plane back to Africa.



A judge said it was difficult to have any sympathy for Semo, who was jailed for eight years, but he must be allowed to stay.



Mr Justice Collins said the Home Office had at first agreed to let the 53-year-old, from Deptford, south east London, get married to his long-term partner, a German national.



Then the wedding was effectively cancelled by a subsequent decision "by the same Home Office - no doubt by a different department".



The judge said he was "very reluctant" to intervene - "but it seems to me the Home Office really cannot be allowed to play hot and cold".



The judge said: "With considerable reluctance, I have to say he must be allowed to marry.



"That means there will be a prohibition against removing him."



The judge said the Home Secretary would have to reconsider later, after the marriage, whether to make a fresh attempt to deport him.



That would engage issues of EU law as his bride-to-be, Bunsana Kalonji, is a refugee from the Congo who became a German national.



The pair have a long-established relationship. Ms Kalonji is in the UK, exercising her right to work here under Community law.



Once married, the pair are expected to claim that Semo is legally entitled to remain in the UK as the spouse of an European Economic Area national entitled to free movement within EU member states, including the UK.



Semo was sentenced to eight years' jail in December 2002 for raping and assaulting a 38-year-old woman in Rushey Green, Catford, south east London.



The trial judge said of the rape: "You added to that the degradation of throwing her on a rubbish tip once you had finished with her."



His refugee status was revoked in June 2008 and the Home Secretary made a deportation order.



After finishing his prison sentence, he was detained pending deportation. Since then he has successfully fought a series of legal battles to stay in the UK, the latest of which centres on his wedding plans.







On Tuesday last week, the Home Office refused to grant Semo, who is being held at Colnbrook immigration removal centre near London's Heathrow Airport, a "movement order" allowing him to attend Hillingdon Register Office at 10.30am yesterday for his wedding to his German fiancee.

His lawyers were told that he could not marry as directions had been issued for him to be flown out of the country - on the day he was hoping to wed.



Last Friday, his legal team made an urgent application to High Court judge Mrs Justice Nicola Davies for him to be allowed to get to the register office.



The judge refused. She observed that the original wedding date had been altered from March 30 to the 29th - the day he was to be deported - and described the application as "an attempt to obstruct the process of removal".



The legal battle continued yesterday when Semo renewed his legal challenge before Mr Justice Collins.



Shortly before 5pm - Semo was due to be put on a plane at 7pm - the judge blocked his removal.



The judge said: "It is difficult to have any sympathy for this claimant. He came to this country from the Democratic Republic of Congo and was granted asylum.



"He chose to misuse his time here by committing offences, the most serious of which was rape."



Ruling that Semo must be allowed to marry, the judge said whether or not his motive was to avoid deportation was "not material".



The Home Office's action in first allowing the marriage to be arranged, and then not allowing it to go ahead, was "not a satisfactory means of fulfilling its obligations".



The judge said: "Once a certificate of approval to marry had been issued, under Home Office guidance there was an obligation to facilitate it."