R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Al-Fayed

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date26 July 2000
Date26 July 2000
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Regina
and
Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex parte Al Fayed

Before Lord Justice Nourse, Lord Justice Kennedy and Lord Justice Rix

COURT OF APPEAL

Nationality - refusal of application for naturalisation - claim that application prejudged - evidence insufficient

Newspaper article is insufficient proof

An article in a national newspaper by a journalist based on what he had been told by a third party whom he refused to identify was not satisfactory evidence to support an allegation that the Home Secretary had prejudged an application for naturalisation as a British citizen under the British Nationality Act 1981.

The Court of Appeal so held in reserved judgments in judicial review proceedings dismissing an appeal by Mr Mohammed Al Fayed from the refusal by Mr Justice Ognell on October 21, 1999, to quash the decision of the Home Secretary not to grant him citizenship.

Mr Michael Beloff, QC and Mr Rabinder Singh for Mr Al Fayed; Mr Jonathan Crow and Mr Mark Hoskins for the Home Secretary.

LORD JUSTICE NOURSE said that the Home Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, having dealt with the application personally, determined that he was not satisfied that Mr Al Fayed was of good character.

Mr Al Fayed claimed that the decision was disproportionate and irrational and, moreover, biased in the sense that the application had been prejudged before it came to be duly considered.

However, the evidence relating to allegations against him concerning breaking into a safe deposit box held by Mr Tiny Rowland and unethical payments to members of Parliament justified the decision. Mr Beloff's case based on conventional irrationality failed.

Mr Beloff argued further that the Home Secretary had prejudged the merits of the application and had not approached the matter with an open mind, or at least had not appeared to do so.

He relied on an article on September 6, 1998, in the Sunday Express by Mr Andrew Pierce, a journalist with The Times, except for a time between 1998 and 1999 when he was with the Sunday Express.

The article, headed "Al Fayed will be denied his British citizenship", recorded that Jack Straw had confided to friends: "I just don't see how he can have citizenship if he paid MPs".

Mr Pierce's evidence was that he recollected clearly how he came to write the story but would not identify the source, although he did say he was absolutely impeccable, had access to the Prime Minister and the whole of the Cabinet and was a highly respected figure whose...

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