Supreme Court Roots Out Discrimination Against Illegitimate Children

It has been a 50-year project to root out discrimination of all kinds from the statute books and the Supreme Court took another important step in that direction when it ruled that deporting a Jamaican criminal would be to punish him for the accident of his birth outside wedlock.

The Home Office issued a deportation order against the man after he was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for nine years. Aged in his 30s, he had been living in England since he was a baby, following his birth in Jamaica to unmarried parents. His mother was Jamaican but his father was a British citizen.

Under the rules in force at the relevant time, he would have been entitled to British citizenship had his parents at any point married. The same would have applied had his mother been the one with citizenship. His father could have applied on his behalf for citizenship when he was a child, but no such application had been made. He would also have been entitled to apply for citizenship in his own right when he passed the age of 16, but only if he was of good character.

Arguments that the deportation order amounted to a breach of his human rights, and that the Home Office had been wrong to certify his claim as manifestly unfounded, were rejected by the High Court and later by the Court of Appeal.

In upholding his appeal, however, the Supreme Court found that his liability to deportation by reason of his birth outside wedlock amounted to unlawful discrimination that could not be justified. The requirement that a person in his position must also be of good character to qualify for citizenship was also incompatible with human rights.

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