Crime prevention justifies the deportation decision and constitutes a legitimate interference with privacy
Alam v. Den mark 29-06-2017 (no. 33809/15)
The applicant is a national of Pakistan, who was born and lives in Denmark. She is currently serving a prison sentence for murder after which she will be expelled from Denmark. The ECtHR considered that the deportation decision had the effect of interfering with Mrs Alam’s right to respect for her private life but was “lawful” and that it was seeking the legitimate purpose of preventing disorder and crime.
The intervention in Mrs Alam’s private and family life was therefore justified by relevant and sufficient reasons and expulsion would not be disproportionate to all the facts of the case.
The applicant, Faruk Rooma Alam, is a Pakistani national who was born in 1982 and lives in Albertslund (Denmark). She is currently serving a prison sentence for murder, after which time she will be expelled from Denmark.
Ms Alam joined her father in Denmark as an infant and made her life there. She attended school and obtained permanent residency in Denmark. In 1999, Ms Alam’s parents arranged for the 16 year old to be married to a Pakistani man. She gave birth to their two children, both Pakistani nationals, in Denmark. Ms Alam alleged that her husband had been violent and that in 2006 he had held her and her children against their will in Pakistan; she had managed to escape with her daughter but her husband had then kidnapped their son only to return him once she had already returned to Denmark. Soon after the couple divorced and Ms Alam was granted sole custody of their children in 2008. She continued to live in Denmark with her children, mother and brother.
Ms Alam then began a relationship with another Pakistani man who later married a different woman. In December 2013, Ms Alam was convicted by a City Court for the murder of this man’s wife as well as arson and attempted aggravated robbery. For her crimes, Ms Alam was sentenced to life in prison and expulsion from Denmark. The City Court took note of Ms Alam’s attachment to Demark including her upbringing, schooling and education, and that her two children had been born and resided in the country. It also took specific note of her children’s ages – 9 and 13 years old – and the significance their ages could have in relation to the length of their mother’s sentence. These factors were, however, weighed against the real and continuing attachment Ms Alam maintained with Pakistan and Pakistani culture and the serious nature of the crimes for which she had been convicted. On appeal, the High Court reduced her sentence to 16 years, but upheld the expulsion order. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused in 2015.
Ms Alam’s former husband subsequently attempted to gain custody of their children, but they were placed with her sister and brother-in-law instead. In March 2015, while still serving her sentence, Ms Alam married a Danish citizen.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life)
The Court found that the expulsion order had amounted to an interference with Ms Alam’s right to respect for private life, but that it was “in accordance with the law” and that it pursued the legitimate aim of preventing disorder and crime.
Furthermore, the Court recognised the City Court’s thorough assessment of Ms Alam’s personal circumstances, its careful balancing of competing interests and explicit acknowledgement of the criteria set out in the Strasbourg Court’s case-law. The City Court had also specifically noted the children’s age and its significance when compared to the length of their mother’s prison sentence.
Indeed, the children will be of age in, respectively, 2018 and 2022 whereas their mother will have served her sentence in 2028. Even if she is released on parole after two-thirds of her imprisonment, thus in 2022, both children will be of age. The Court also noted that, should Ms Alam be released on parole after only half of her imprisonment (that is 2020), her older child will be of age and the younger child will be 16 years and 6 months old.
Moreover, the expulsion order had not included Ms Alam’s children and, should their residence be at stake at some stage due to her expulsion, they would have recourse through the domestic courts for judicial review of the decision (including its compliance with Article 8 of the Convention).
In sum, the Court had no reason to call into question the domestic courts’ conclusions which, based on a balancing exercise, had been neither arbitrary nor manifestly unreasonable. The interference with Ms Alam’s private and family life had therefore been supported by relevant and sufficient reasons and her expulsion would not be disproportionate given all the circumstances of the case.
The part of the application regarding the separation from her children was therefore rejected as manifestly ill-founded.
Lastly, as regards Ms Alam’s marriage to a Danish citizen, the Court noted that it had taken place after her expulsion order had become final. Moreover, during the domestic proceedings she had not raised the complaint that her expulsion from her husband-to-be would be in breach of Article 8. The Court therefore rejected this part of the application for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies.