'Deport first, appeal later': Home Secretary vows to enforce new rules after Abu Qatada saga

Justice Secretary calls for 'wholesale changes' to Human Rights law in Britain

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The Independent Online

The Government’s nine-year battle to deport radical cleric Abu Qatada amounted to “a mockery of our system of justice” and is to become the basis for wide-ranging changes, Home Secretary Theresa May said.

These include a “deport first, appeal later” rule which has already been put through Parliament in the Crime and Court Act 2013.

And Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the Government was ruling nothing out as it sought “a fundamental change to our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights”.

The saga of Qatada’s deportation finally drew to a close early on Sunday morning and his trial on terrorism charges in now underway in Jordan.

Theresa May said in the Metro newspaper: “I am proud this government has finally managed to get him out.”

She added: “Abu Qatada has gone. My task is now to ensure nothing similar to the ludicrously lengthy process it took to get him out ever happens again.”

Her efforts to this end are already underway – with Section 54 of the new law, a deportation on national security grounds can now only be blocked if the person would “face a real risk of serious irreversible harm if removed”. 

It also adds greater powers for the Secretary of State to “certify that removal would not breach the United Kingdom’s obligations under the Human Rights Convention”, even if an appeal is underway.

And speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, Chris Grayling said: “There will be wholesale changes to the way human rights laws operate in this country.”

As Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Mr Grayling is responsible for determining the legal changes needed to enact Ms May’s promise.

And he said that the Conservative party would be making Human Rights a key factor in their general election campaign.

When asked if he was considering a UK withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, Mr Grayling said he was “ruling nothing out”.

And he said: “At a minimum there will be a replacement for the human rights act, and we will have a fundamental change to our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.”

Abu Qatada is currently being held in the maximum security Muwaqar prison near the Jordanian capital Amman, and his lawyers will today fight for him to be released on bail.

They said yesterday in court that he is not guilty of conspiring to twice commit terrorist acts in Jordan.