Judge quashes `irrational' decision to detain Jamaican

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Immigration officials were criticised by a High Court judge yesterday for locking up a Jamaican who came to visit relations in England. Decisions that led to Peter Honegan, 31, a mechanic, spending Christmas 1993 in custody were "not only wrong but irrational", Mr Justice Tucker said.

Mr Honegan was one of 190 visitors on a charter flight from Kingston, Jamaica, who were held by the immigration authorities; 27 were deported on Christmas Day. Their treatment caused controversy in Britain and the West Indies, with diplomatic representations made. But Mr Honegan, who lives in Kingston, was the only passenger to seek a judicial review in the English courts.

His solicitor, Louise Christian, commended by the judge for giving up her Christmas to help Mr Honegan, said after yesterday's ruling: "We have demonstrated conclusively that, in one case out of the 190 detentions, public concern over what happened to the Jamaican visitors was absolutely justified. It must give rise to a strong suspicion that there were many others on that flight who could not get access to legal advice who were also wrongly refused entry."

The judge described how Mr Honegan arrived at Gatwick airport on 21 December 1993, with £390, representing 10 weeks' wages, to visit his cousin Robert Sergeant at Hayes, west London. He was refused leave to enter as a visitor but later given temporary admission while his case was reviewed and left for home some four weeks later.

Immigration officials took the view that Mr Honegan's account of a past visit to the UK and other matters, including how he came to lose an old passport, gave rise to a suspicion that he was not a genuine visitor.

But he had freely volunteered information which was truthful and was not to be criticised if some of his answers were confusing and illogical, given the complexities of immigration procedures and the fact that he was "a person of basic literacy", the judge said. "It was in my opinion, I am sorry to have to say, irrational to refuse this man permission to enter." He formally quashed the refusal of entry, which should make it easier for Mr Honegan to visit his UK relatives in the future.

Ms Christian said a problem for visitors was that judicial review was their only remedy against any injustice, as the right to appeal had been taken away. She said: "I hope this case will cause Parliament to look again at the removal of rights of appeal for visitors."