Theresa May's immigrant cat claim rejected

Wesley Johnson
Tuesday 04 October 2011 15:59 BST

Catgate was the talk of the Tory party conference today as Theresa May cited the case of an illegal immigrant she claimed could not be deported because of a pet cat.

The Home Secretary used the case as an example of the problems caused by "misinterpretation" of provisions in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to a family life.

But Mrs May's claims were refuted by a spokeswoman for the Judicial Office, which represents senior judges, who said the ruling in the case had nothing to do with the cat, reportedly called Maya.

The case at the centre of the row, which was quickly dubbed Catgate, involved an immigrant facing deportation from Britain who cited ownership of a pet cat with his girlfriend as part of his legal battle to stay in the country three years ago.

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 when the case first came to light in October 2009.

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 at the time: "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."

But 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".

The determination also referred to the "inappropriate weight placed on the appellant having to leave behind not only his partner but also their joint cat" but added that, "more significantly" the Home Secretary "argued that the Immigration Judge had erred in law in applying a withdrawn policy which no longer applied at the date of decision".

Neither the man, nor his cat, were named in the judgment, delivered in December 2008.

Today, a spokeswoman for the Judicial Office reissued the statement which it first released two years ago, denying the cat's role in the decision.

"This was a case in which the Home Office conceded that they had mistakenly failed to apply their own policy - applying at that time to that appellant - for dealing with unmarried partners of people settled in the UK," she said.

"That was the basis for the decision to uphold the original tribunal decision - the cat had nothing to do with the decision."


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