Boris Becker will be considered for deportation, the Home Office has confirmed, as experts said the potential battle could set a legal precedent and Becker may have to represent himself in court if he wants to remain in the UK.
Last week, the former tennis star was jailed for two years and six months for hiding millions of pounds’ worth of assets after being made bankrupt in June 2017. Becker, sentenced under the Insolvency Act, will serve half the full prison term.
A Home Office spokesperson said that while it did not routinely comment on individual cases, “any foreign national who is convicted of a crime and given a prison sentence is considered for deportation at the earliest opportunity”.
Such a development is likely to make case history because the Home Office may claim that Becker’s criminal offenses continued after the Brexit withdrawal agreement was implemented on 31 December 2020, which made immigration law for EU citizens more stringent.
This ambiguity means Becker, who is not thought to have taken British citizenship, could either be considered for deportation under the previous, more relaxed version of the UK Borders Act 2007, or the updated version, which was implemented on 31 December 2020.
Fighting against it could cost up to £30,000, experts said, meaning Becker may have to represent himself in court as a litigant in person.
“If the criminal conduct took place after 31 December 2020 then Becker is subject to automatic deportation because he received a sentence of 12 months or more,” said Colin Yeo, an immigration barrister and author of Welcome to Britain: Fixing Our Broken Immigration System. “He could attempt to resist deportation on human rights grounds but we have seen young black men who have lived in the UK far longer than Becker, sometimes since early childhood, deported for lower sentences than Becker received.
“If the conduct took place before that date, he benefits from the protection of the EU-UK withdrawal agreement. He would still be considered for deportation and the Home Office would be likely to attempt to deport him but he’d have a stronger legal case for staying.”
Christopher Cole, a consultant solicitor in immigration and asylum law for DG Legal, said Becker’s was the first case he had seen that would test the new legal landscape. “It’s uncharted territory: I’m not aware of any cases like this one, where the courts have had to decide which side of the dividing line the offending behavior occurred,” he said.
If the court decides the offending behavior continued until Becker’s sentencing last week, the home secretary is likely to press on with an attempt to deport him, said Cole.
“More often than not, because of the political pressure on the Home Office, wherever possible they will try to make a decision to deport any foreign national offender even if it looks like they’ve got a fairly weak case and there’s a very high chance of that person succeeding on appeal,” said Cole. “Even if they think they’re almost bound to lose, more often than not they will make a decision to deport and that would then lead to an appeal to the court.”
In this case, Becker will either have to find up to £30,000 or represent himself as a litigant in person, he added.
Zeena Luchowa, a senior solicitor at Laura Devine Immigration and member of the Law Society’s immigration committee, said if Becker’s conduct was deemed to have been committed after 31 December 2020, a deportation can be made if deemed “conducive to the public good”. “This gives discretion to the Home Office to act in a way that reflects the public interest – and given Home Office’s position on criminality when it comes to foreign nationals they are unlikely to let this one go.”
Becker, she added, could appeal on human rights grounds or an application could be made for the deportation order to be revoked if compassionate circumstances were found.
But appeals can typically take six to 12 months to be processed and are very expensive, said Leon Glenister, a barrister at Landmark Chambers. “The presumption is that he will receive a deportation order but although one has to consider his right from him to a private and family life, I ca n’t see that he is going to give him much hope.
“Even if Becker goes to a high street lawyer to defend him, costs can reach £30,000. The only other option is for him to represent himself as a litigant in person. This is not unheard of but it can be quite complicated, so it’s not advised.”