In brief, then, in its judgment given on 16 December 2009 the Court unanimously held that an Entry Clearance Officer was obliged to take into account support by persons other than the sponsor in assessing applications for entry clearance under Immigration Rules 281 (spouses and civil partners), 297 (children) and 317 (parents, grandparents and other dependent relatives). In a typically lucid judgment, that brought a dose of realism to a case that had so far been beset by technicality, Lord Brown noted that other forms of assistance, such as Disability Living Allowance, were already accepted as legitimate forms of maintenance. There was no reason that support by a “rich uncle” ought to be considered any less legitimate than support by the sponsor, particularly in large and supportive immigrant communities. The effect of Article 8 was not considered, but Lord Brown noted that if the government were to amend the Rules to exclude third party support it might well be relevant. The decision rectifies the anomalous and unfair position in which many entry clearance applicants found themselves. It is a decision that will be welcomed by immigration lawyers.

Lords Kerr and Collins gave concurring judgments. Lord Collins explained that he was now convinced that he had wrongly decided MW (Liberia) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  [2007] EWCA Civ 1376, [2008] 1 WLR 1068 (in which the Court of Appeal held only parents could support their children under Rule 297). Lord Kerr expressed himself in “complete agreement” with Lord Brown, but proceeded to summarise Lord Brown’s judgment. Once again, the function of a wholly concurring judgment is open to question (on which note, see Lord Hope’s defence of the Court’s current practice in his recent interview, dealt with here). Two final points.  Although the Court of Appeal’s practice is to anonymise the claimants in immigration cases, there was no reason for such anonymity in the Supreme Court and the claimants are now listed in the judgment as
Ahmed Mahad (previously referred to as AM) (Ethiopia), Sahro Ali (previously referred to as SA) (Somalia) and Amal Wehelia (previously referred to as AW) (Somalia), Malyun Ismail (previously referred to as MI) (Somalia) and Khadra Abdillahi (previously referred to as KA) (Somalia) Vettivetpillai Sakthivel (previously referred to as VS) (Sri Lanka) and Abdi-Malik Muhumed (previously referred to as AM (No. 2)) (Somalia).  Secondly, for reasons which are not clear, the case does not come with a “press summary” but, instead, with the Court’s formal order promulgating the judgment.