12th May 2020, Ireland: Court of Appeal’s important judgement in Irish naturalisation refusal case based on ‘good character.’
The Irish Court of Appeal delivered an important judgement in the case of Talla v Minister for Justice and Equality (2020) ICEA 135. The case concerned a Kosovan man whose application for Irish naturalisation had been refused on the basis that he was ‘not of good character.’ This decision was based on his having previously committed road traffic offences in the State including a routine speeding offence in 2011 for which he was fined €380. He was also convicted for driving his brother’s car without the correct insurance and fined €400 but without disqualification or an endorsement on his licence.
The applicant, having entered the State in 2002, married with two children born in Ireland, applied for naturalisation in 2013. He answered ‘no’ to the questions concerning offences and convictions. Later, in 2016 the Applicant was incorrectly issued with a court summons due to an error at the Gardai Station after he attended to produce documentation following a charge of no insurance/failure to produce a driving licence. The matter was incorrectly recorded but struck out. In 2017 further charges against the Applicant were struck out in the District Court where he was summoned to court on a charge of no insurance. The incident was explained as the Applicant’s brother had failed to renew the insurance in error.
The incidents were brought to the attention of the Applicant by INIS through his solicitors prior to a decision being made on his application. Explanations were provided in respect of each incident in detail by the Applicant’s solicitors.
In February 2018, the Minister refused the application for naturalisation on the basis of ‘good character’ describing the Applicant as having a ‘history of non-compliance with the laws of the State.’
The Applicant challenged the decision by way of judicial review but the application was dismissed and he subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal was not satisfied that the Minister for Justice and Equality had considered and weighed all of the relevant considerations, including the Applicant’s explanations for the motoring offences:
‘’Notwithstanding that the Minister has an absolute discretion in determining an application for a certificate of naturalisation, it is beyond question that the Minister has a duty to act fairly and judicially in accordance with the principles of constitutional justice… The Minister must consider and analyse all relevant material, and a failure to do so makes the lawfulness of the decision susceptible to judicial review.’’
The Court of Appeal found that the submission prepared for the Minister recommending refusal on the grounds of good character had not considered the evidence and explanatory information presented by the Applicant’s solicitors.
The Court held that while criminal convictions or the commission of offences are relevant to this enquiry and assessment ‘the outline facts and any mitigating circumstances, the period of time that has elapsed since the last conviction, and other factors that may be relevant to character, must all be taken into consideration.’
The Court held that the decision should be quashed and the application reconsidered in line with the judgement. The Minister had evidently failed to give reasons and in particular failed to provide a rationale for deciding that the ’nature of the offences’ meant that the person was ‘not of good character.’
Granite Immigration Law welcomes this judgement as road traffic offences remain a principle reason for refusal of Irish naturalisation applications based on ‘good character’ grounds. It is most helpful that the judgement clarifies that the Minister cannot simply refuse an application on basis of such offences alone but must consider all mitigating factors and explanatory information before him as well as the applicant’s circumstances. This is a reasonable approach particularly when many clients experience significant delays on their application only to receive a refusal based on a minor road traffic offence. The time that has elapsed since such an offence should also be considered in such cases.
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