New Judgment: B (Algeria) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 4
30 Wednesday Jan 2013
On appeal from:  EWCA Civ 828.
The appellant, an Algerian national, was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for contempt of court after his deliberate refusal to comply with a SIAC order requiring him to disclose his true identity and give a DNA sample. He appealed against the committal order, arguing breaches of ECHR, arts 3 and 8, and that the sentence was excessive. The Court of Appeal held that although SIAC had erred in rejecting psychiatrists’ evidence, the sentence was not excessive and did not remit the matter to SIAC for reconsideration. The appeal was unanimously dismissed. The Supreme Court’s affirmation of the original sentence did not necessarily entail an endorsement of the reasons for which the decision was made. Where a fresh investigation into the facts is required it should be undertaken by the first instance court; however, this was not the case in the present matter.
Committal was held to be appropriate where it can reasonably be expected to induce the subject to comply with an order or for the purposes of punishment; it is unlikely the fact the subject already has substantial restrictions on his liberty would be material when the Court thinks imprisonment would induce compliance with an order. SIAC’s sentence was chosen to reflect the seriousness of the contempt.
An appellate court need only remit a matter where a first instance sentence in a contempt case was flawed or procedurally unfair if it considers that a fresh investigation of new facts is required.