A cat has been used as evidence in a British court case that a cohabiting couple had a settled “family life” and therefore a right not to have it disturbed by the deportation of the male partner. No kitting.
The Bolivian man and his girlfriend had been together for four years, according to his lawyer, Barry O’Leary, who said they should have benefited from a Home Office policy on unmarried partners which gives credit to couples who have been together for more than two years.
Exactly why the man was to be thrown out is not clear, but when the case was appealed to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, the fact that the couple had purchased the cat together and had it for some time counted as one piece of evidence of “the genuine nature and duration of their relationship,” said O’Leary.
An immigration judge on the tribunal ruled that sending the man back to Bolivia would breach his human rights because he was entitled to a “private and family life” under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Usually this article is invoked in the UK where an immigrant has children born there; this seems to be the first time a court has been asked to attach weight to joint custody of a pet.
The Home Office asked for the decision to be reconsidered. The Conservative Party’s shadow immigration minister was nearly catatonic:
“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.”
So was the chairman of MigrationwatchUK, Sir Andrew Green:
“Drawing pets into the consideration of issues of such importance is so utterly absurd that you could not make it up. I despair. This is symptomatic of the attitude held by many of the judiciary, which is complete disregard for the impact of such decisions on the future of our community.”
But senior immigration judge Judith Gleeson joked in the official written ruling that the cat “need no longer fear having to adapt to Bolivian mice”.
For all its fame the moggy remains, like its male custodian, anonymous — its name was blanked out in official court papers to protect its privacy.