In 2008 the Immigration Rules were charged to bar foreign spouses from entering the UK if either spouse is under the age of 21. The Supreme Court has today ruled that the age bar is a disproportionate interference with the right to a family and private life.
Lina Mattsson, one of Hardwicke's pupil barristers has been closely involved in the case.
This is a victory for the right of young people. The rule had a draconian impact in people who married a partner from outside the EU – as they were either exiled or forced to live apart from their loved one for up to three years.
The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal declaring that a powerful justification is needed for a policy which has such adverse impact on thousands of genuine marriages. The Supreme Court dismissed the SSHD’s justification that the policy would prevent forced marriages. The Court concluded that there was no evidence to support the SSHD position. Rather, research which the SSHD had commissioned before changing the rule recommended against the age bar, pointing to risks of perceived discrimination against ethnic minorities as well as the risk of victims being keep abroad until old enough to sponsor a visa. The majority of the Supreme Court therefore decided that the interference could not be justified in view of the adverse impact the rule had on young newlyweds without any evidence to show that the rule in actual fact prevented forced marriages.