JO (Nigeria) v Minister for Justice and Equality

 
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[2016] IEHC 759

THE HIGH COURT

JUDICIAL REVIEW

Stewart J.

[2015 No. 585 JR]

BETWEEN
J.O. (NIGERIA)
APPLICANT
AND
THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE AND EQUALITY
RESPONDENTS

Asylum, Immigration & Nationality – S.15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended) – Refusal to grant certificate of naturalisation – Certiorari – Inconsistencies in information

JUDGMENT of Ms. Justice Stewart delivered on 11th day of November, 2016.
1

This is a hearing seeking, inter alia, an order of certiorari in respect of the decision of the respondent made on 30th June, 2015, to refuse an application for naturalisation as an Irish citizen and to over-ride a contrary intention expressed on 10th July, 2013. This decision was made pursuant to s. 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended) and these proceedings are brought pursuant to a Notice of Motion dated 11th December, 2015.

Background
2

The applicant is a Nigerian national who arrived in the State on 10th March, 2000, and applied for asylum. He withdrew his application after acquiring a five year right of residence, on foot of his marriage to an EU National, on 18th December, 2001. In 2007, he made his first application for naturalisation, which was refused in 2010. The application that gives rise to these proceedings was made in 2011. In 2013, the applicant was informed that the respondent intended to grant his application. However, this was withdrawn in 2015 and the application was refused on the grounds of his adverse history with the United Kingdom's immigration authorities, his failure to properly disclose said history and the failure to fully resolve persisting discrepancies in regard to his date of birth.

Applicant's Submissions
3

Mr. O'Dwyer, S.C., with Mr. Haynes, B.L. for the applicant, relies on the case of Mallak v. MJELR [2012] 3 I.R. 297 in stating that the absolute discretion afforded to the respondent under the 1956 Act is not immune to judicial review and must be exercised within reason.

4

The applicant submits that he satisfied all the conditions for naturalisation, as outlined in s. 15(1) of the 1956 Act, in 2013, with the exception of the Citizenship Ceremony. Invitation to a ceremony was allegedly delayed due to logistical issues on the respondent's part and difficulties on the applicant's part in securing a renewal of his GNIB card. The applicant alleges that, by 9th June, 2014, these issues had been resolved and he was told an invitation to a Ceremony was forthcoming. He submits that notice of further consideration of his application was communicated on 15th July, 2014, and, almost a year later, the impugned decision was arrived at.

5

The applicant submits that the impugned decision is irrational because it is based on reasons that flow from information already within the knowledge of the respondent when the expression of intent was communicated. This allegedly includes knowledge of his criminal convictions and of discrepancies relating to his date of birth.

6

The applicant alleges that the respondent treated his convictions for the non-payment of fines and resultant committal history as serious in nature and/or as determinative of the good character requirement under s. 15 of the 1956 Act. He relies on a number of cases, including M.A.D. v. MJE [2015] IEHC 446 and Okornoe v. MJE [2016] IEHC 100, to outline the procedure through which criminal convictions should be considered in the context of a naturalisation application. He submits that the offences in question were minor, small in number and therefore should not be viewed as a serious blemish on his good character. The applicant relies on Hussain v. Minister for Justice [2011] IEHC 171 in defining 'good character'.

7

The applicant submits that he wrote to the respondent prior to the 2013 communication and pointed out the mistake in recording his date of birth. He draws the Court's attention to the respondent's delay in requesting an explanation for the discrepancies in his date of birth. Upon a second request, the applicant stated that the initial error (which recorded date of birth as '13/08/75') arose due to a mistake on his part, precipitated by the stress of the asylum process, and that the second error (which recorded date of birth as '03/08/75') stemmed from a fault in the Irish Marriage Registry. He submits that the respondent was furnished with an explanation for the second error from the Superintendent Registrar of the Civil Registration Office, who confirmed it to be a transcription error on their part. He therefore alleges that a material error of fact exists in regard to the references to 'various'...

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