An immigrant facing deportation from Britain cited ownership of a pet cat with his girlfriend as part of his legal battle to stay in the country, it was revealed today.
The man, a Bolivian who came to the UK as a student, gave cat ownership as one of "many details" to prove the long-term nature of his relationship, his solicitor Barry O'Leary said.
But the solicitor insisted that his client had "never" argued that he should be allowed to stay on the grounds of the cat. Nor had he been allowed to stay because of this, he said.
The Home Office had appealed to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal against a judgment allowing the man to stay in the country.
Mr O'Leary said: "We were never arguing on the basis that the cat was material. We argued that there is a Home Office policy they should have applied in this case because of the long term nature of the couple's relationship.
"The immigration judge found that was the reason the appeal should be allowed."
Giving her judgment against the Home Office appeal, senior immigration judge Judith Gleeson joked that the cat "need no longer fear having to adapt to Bolivian mice".
Neither the man, nor his cat, have been named in the judgment, delivered in December last year.
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: "We were disappointed by the court's decision in this case.
"The UK Border Agency vigorously opposes any appeal against detention, deportation or removal but if the courts insist an individual cannot be removed we have to accept their judgment."
Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said: "Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry. If pet ownership is going to be used as a reason for deciding immigration cases, then the law really is an ass.
"This is clearly not a sensible use of human rights legislation which is designed to protect people's basic needs."
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch UK, said: "The problem is not Bolivian mice, the problem is the mice who are appointed to the bench in Britain.
"We are facing a population crisis due to immigration and it is high time the judiciary understand the long-term consequences of decisions such as this which render removal of illegal immigrants almost impossible."
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies