A five-strong panel of Supreme Court justices has dismissed the Home Secretary’s appeal to increase the spouse visa age from 18 to 21.
The ruling upholds an earlier judgment that found that the increase in age interferes with the family lives of those affected.
In a judgment led by Supreme Court President Lord Phillips, the court ruled that an amendment to the immigration rules introduced by Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith in 2008 was not a lawful.
The amendment was made to prevent entry clearance to spouses or partners where either applicant or sponsor is aged under 21. The court ruled that the move violated Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to family life.
The decision hands a victory for Landmark Chambers’ Richard Drabble QC, who was instructed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) for the first respondent, and Al Mustakim of 3 Fleet Street Chambers, who was instructed by Davies Blunden & Evans Solicitors assistant Renee Fickling for the second respondent.
Both respondents were non-EEA nationals who sought leave to remain as the spouses of British citizens. It was accepted by all parties concerned that there was no question of forced marriage in either case. However, both parties were refused on the basis of the amended Rule 277.
Lord Wilson said that “the refusal to grant marriage visas condemned both sets of spouses to live separately for approximately three years” and that it was a “colossal interference to their family life”.
One Crown Office Row’s Angus McCullough QC was instructed by the Treasury Solicitor for the Government.
The panel of Supreme Court Justices was made up of: Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers; Lady Hale of Richmond; Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony; Lord Wilson of Culworth; and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood.