NI High Court: Deportation of UK adoptee with numerous criminal convictions upheld

NI High Court: Deportation of UK adoptee with numerous criminal convictions upheld

Northern Ireland’s High Court has refused leave to apply for judicial review to a man with a deportation order who argued that he had British citizenship as a result of his adoption by a UK/Italian couple despite being born in Italy.

The court also found that the deportation order did not impact on the man’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, given the public policy and public safety grounds underpinning the decision, as a result of his many criminal convictions.


The applicant was born in February 1967 in Genoa, Italy. He spent approximately 30 months in an orphanage there before being moved to Turin Children’s Institute in Corso.

In April 1976 he was adopted by an Italian national, Luciano Sangermano, and his British wife Pamela. After he was adopted, the family moved to the US for a year, where he lived in St Paul, Minnesota.

He arrived in the UK in either 1977 or 1978. In April 1982 he was the subject matter of a care order and went into the full-time care of Harrow Social Services.

Between May 1987 and April 2017, the applicant was convicted 32 times for 71 offences in the UK, including theft, fraud and public disorder offences. His more recent offending included importing controlled drugs (class A), battery, and racially/religiously aggravated intentional harassment and assault on a constable.

In April 2016, he was served with a notice that he was liable to deportation in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016, because of his continued criminal offending.

In response to the notice, the applicant submitted representations setting out why he should not be deported. However, as a result of ongoing offending, on 1 April 2019 a deportation order was served on him on grounds of public policy, in accordance with Regulation 23(6)(b) and Regulation 27 of the 2016 Regulations.

No appeal was lodged against this deportation decision, and in June 2019 he was deported to Italy. In November 2019 he tried to illegally enter the UK when he was encountered at Holyhead. He was refused admission and was returned to Italy.

In December 2019 he was arrested by police in Belfast for criminal damage and was served with illegal entrant papers, as someone in the UK in breach of a deportation order.

The impugned decision

The applicant was seeking to challenge the deportation order made in April 2019. He appeared as a litigant in person, and made an “impassioned case” that the deportation order was invalid because he was a British citizen. He indicated that he simply could not remain in Italy and that, if he was deported, he would return to the UK again.

The court noted that under the British Nationality Act 1981, there is a possibility of an adopted child becoming a British citizen if three criteria are satisfied:

  1. they were the subject of a “Convention adoption” — s.1(5)(b);
  2. one of their adoptive parents is a British citizen — s.1(5A)(a); and
  3. both of their adoptive parents habitually reside in the UK — s.1(5A)(b).

In relation to (a), the applicant’s adoption order was made by an Italian family court in 1976, almost 20 years before the 1993 Hague Convention came into force. Therefore, the applicant could not establish that he was a British citizen under the 1981 Act.

Further, there was nothing in the provision stating that it would operate retrospectively, and the presumption was that it did not. Even if the provision did operate retrospectively, it did not apply to him because he was not the subject of a “Convention adoption”.

In relation to (b), the applicant’s case was that the Adoption Act 1958 applied to him and unlawfully discriminated against him. This was because it treats adopted children as British citizens if their adoptive father is/was English, but not if their adoptive mother is/was English. He claimed that this amounted to gender/other status-related discrimination.

However, the court noted that the 1958 Act does not extend to apply in Italy. It only applies to adoption orders made within the UK. Therefore, the 1958 Act did not apply to the applicant’s adoption.


The court noted that the applicant was relying heavily on his Article 8 entitlements under the ECHR, to the effect that he had established a private and family life in the UK and that the deportation order was an unlawful interference with those rights.

Applying the classic test, it was clear to the court that the deportation order was in accordance with law. It pursued a legitimate purpose, and was based on public policy and public security matters.

The original decision concluded that the applicant’s deportation would not breach UK obligations under Article 8 because the public interest in deporting him outweighed his right to private and family life.


The court ultimately concluded that the application was out of time, and that there was no good reason to extend the time.

Further, the applicant had an alternative remedy in the form of an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal after he was deported. On the substance of his complaint, he had not established in law that he was a British citizen.

The threshold for leave as set out in the case of Ni Chuinneagain [2022] NICA 56 of an arguable case having a realistic prospect of success was plainly not met. Therefore, leave to apply for judicial review was refused.

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