The government really lost the court case over its Rwanda policy

The headlines tell us the government had a court win this week, such as:

Rwanda migrant plan is lawful, High Court rules [BBC]

High Court ruling on Rwanda asylum policy ‘a big win for the government’, says Tory MP [Channel 4]

But the detail on this controversial policy is rather different because, as David Allen Green has pointed out, the court also ruled on the individuals as well as the overall policy:

In the eight individual cases under review, the High Court decided that the removal decisions be quashed and the Home Secretary take the decisions again with proper regard to individual circumstances…

The government lost on nineteen particular decisions in this case.


Each of those nineteen decisions was legally flawed: every single one.

The policy may well be lawful – but in not one case was the policy lawfully applied.

And so the the government lost all the individual cases.

Moreover, the reasons for losing each individual cases are unlikely to be put right:

The impression one forms reading the judgment as a whole is that, with the resources and administrative competence available, the Home Office simply is not capable of making all the individual decisions so that many removals to Rwanda are likely…

Or to put it another way: the government has legally saved its Rwandan removal policy at the expense of making the lawful implementation of that policy extraordinarily resource-intensive and financially expensive.

Although it was a court ruling based on the law, it was also a rather smart political judgement – avoiding the headline criticisms if the courts had rejected the policy yet also in effect rejecting the policy by making it so hard to implement.

A reminder, as ever, to read beyond the headlines.

UPDATE: The Supreme Court has now ruled the policy illegal.

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