Court Upholds Lawfulness of Deportation Order and Detention under UK Borders Act 2007: Audi Johnson Case Analysis

Citation: [2024] EWCA Civ 182
Judgment on


In the recent judgment of Audi Dama Masozera Johnson v Secretary of State for the Home Department: EWCA-Civil 2024 182, the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) delivered a comprehensive analysis concerning the lawfulness of a deportation order and the legality of the detention under the UK Borders Act 2007. The case raised several pivotal legal issues pertaining to British citizenship, the automatic deportation of foreign criminals, and the Hardial Singh principles governing the lawful detention of individuals pending deportation.

Key Facts

Audi Johnson, a non-British citizen, was detained under the UK Borders Act 2007 following a conviction for aggravated burglary, for which he was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. A deportation order was issued under section 32(5) of the 2007 Act, but attempts to deport Johnson to Uganda failed as Ugandan authorities did not recognize him as a Ugandan citizen, rendering him effectively stateless. Johnson’s detention was challenged on the grounds that the deportation order was unlawful and that the principles established in R (Hardial Singh) v Governor of Durham Prison were not adhered to.

The case engaged several legal frameworks and principles:

  1. British Citizenship: The case scrutinized the conditions under which an individual born in the UK acquires British citizenship, with particular reference to section 1 of the British Nationality Act 1981.

  2. Deportation of Non-British Citizens: The court examined the provisions relating to the deportation of non-British citizens under sections 3(5) and 5(1) of the Immigration Act 1971, and sections 32 and 33 of the UK Borders Act 2007. An essential aspect was whether the definition of a “foreign criminal” under section 32(1) could include individuals who are stateless.

  3. Detention Pending Deportation: The principles outlined in Hardial Singh were the benchmark for assessing the lawfulness of Johnson’s detention. These principles stipulate that the Secretary of State must intend to deport the individual, detaining them only for that purpose and only for a reasonable period, ensuring removal is in process or can be achieved in a reasonable timeframe.

  4. Res Judicata: Although not decisive in this case, the potential application of the principle of res judicata was discussed, where decisions in previous tribunal appeals could preclude arguments in subsequent proceedings.


The court upheld the lawfulness of the deportation order, affirming that the automatic deportation provisions under section 32(5) of the 2007 Act applied to Johnson as a non-British citizen, irrespective of his current statelessness. The decision was predicated on an interpretation of statutory provisions, ruling out an incorporated exception for stateless persons.

Regarding the Hardial Singh principles, the judge found that the detention periods (except for a conceded unlawful period) satisfied the requirements that the Secretary of State intended to deport Johnson and that detention was solely for that purpose. Furthermore, the periods of detention were considered reasonable, as there had been a legitimate expectation that the deportation could occur within a reasonable timeframe.


The court’s judgment demonstrates a rigorous application of statutory interpretation principles and the established Hardial Singh framework to affirm the legality of the state’s actions in deporting foreign nationals. The decision clarifies that statelessness alone does not render an individual immune from deportation orders under the UK Borders Act 2007 and that the principles governing detention must be carefully applied on a case-by-case basis to ensure detentions are lawful. This analysis should assist legal practitioners in understanding and navigating similar cases where the interplay between deportation orders and the legality of detention is under scrutiny.