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R (Central College of London Ltd) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 1273 (Admin)

DATE: 03 Apr 2012

In this case, the Central College of London, a college providing undergraduate and graduate courses for international students, sought to challenge the decision by the UK Border Agency to revoke its Tier 4 Sponsor Licence in light of certain breaches of obligations under the relevant UKBA guidance. The effect of the revocation had been that the claimant was unable to teach non-EEA students, which had drastic consequences for its business.

Permission to proceed with the claim had been granted by Nicol J on the ground that, following the judgment of Neil Garnham QC in R (London Reading College) v. SSHD, the revocation of the claimant’s licence amounted to an interference with the claimant’s right to respect for its possessions under Article 1 of the First Protocol ECHR, and in the light of the relatively minor nature of the identified breaches of sponsor duty, immediate revocation was arguably a disproportionate step for UKBA to take.

Between the grant of permission and the substantive hearing, the Court of Appeal in R (New London College) v. SSHD held that Article 1 of the First Protocol ECHR was not engaged in cases involving the revocation of a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence. The Claimant therefore sought to amend its grounds to argue that the revocation was unlawful in domestic law.

At paragraph 40, Hickinbottom J accepted the claimant’s legal submission (contested by the Secretary of State) that:

“as a general proposition of law… a decision of a public body, which may be regarded as a disproportionate response to actions of a person subject to a regulatory scheme, may be unlawful as properly falling within the scope of one of the recognised grounds of challenge in public law”.

However, on the particular facts of the case, Hickinbottom J concluded that the defendant had nonetheless been entitled to revoke the claimant’s licence.

The case is of interest for its discussion of the law relating to the circumstances in which disproportionate action may give rise to a ground of challenge in judicial review proceedings.

Charles Banner appeared for the claimant, instructed by Hafiz & Haque Solicitors.