An asylum-seeking couple arrested and held for 15 days can seek damages against the Home Office after the High Court ruled their detention was unlawful.
Mr Justice Munby blasted the Home Office for an “unacceptable disregard of the rule of law” after hearing that officials had detained the couple deliberately in October 2004 to minimise their access to lawyers and the courts.
Predrag Karas and Stanislava Milandinovic were arrested on 11 October 2004 and told they would be placed on a flight to Croatia the next day.
Karas’s claim for asylum had been rejected and he had made another claim on compassionate grounds. But his wife was then able to claim asylum and the couple remained in the UK.
Munby said there was no justification for holding them. He refused permission for the Home Office to appeal against his judgment, but home secretary Charles Clarke can apply directly to the Court of Appeal to hear the case.
The government said it would not remove the couple from the country while they sought damages.
A Home Office spokesperson said it was considering the judge’s comments “very carefully”.
“We will continue to seek the removal of individuals who have no legal rights to remain in the UK and take our responsibilities to those we are removing and those in detention seriously,” she added.