Not surprisingly, it is the Mike Hancock connection which has got the headlines in the deportation case of Katia Zatuliveter. However, yesterday’s decision by an immigration tribunal to let her stay in the country is a humiliation for MI5.
It had confidently asserted that she was a spy and should be deported. It is not only that the Immigration Appeals Tribunal rejected MI5′s claims, but one of its three members hearing the case was Stephen Lander, himself the former boss of MI5. He and his colleagues concluded that she was not employed by the Russian secret service and that all her behaviour was fully compatible with not being a spy.
The police and security services often claim they know that someone is guilty but, alas, cannot reveal the evidence and insist we should trust their judgement. It is not often that their judgement on such matters gets put to a public, external test.
In this case, it was a fairly friendly test – the former head of MI5 is hardly a hostile person – and MI5 failed it comprehensively.
Something moreover to remember the next time a politician demands curbs on our civil liberties based on secret evidence from the security services.