UKSC 74
On appeal from:  CSIH 87
Zoumbas (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent)
Lady Hale, Deputy President
JUDGMENT GIVEN ON
27 November 2013
Heard on 28 October 2013
Mark Lindsay QC
(Instructed by Drummond Miller LLP)
Lorna Drummond QC
(Instructed by Office of the Advocate General)
LORD HODGE, delivering the judgment of the court
The legal framework
(1) The best interests of a child are an integral part of the proportionality assessment under article 8 ECHR;
(2) In making that assessment, the best interests of a child must be a primary consideration, although not always the only primary consideration; and the child's best interests do not of themselves have the status of the paramount consideration;
(3) Although the best interests of a child can be outweighed by the cumulative effect of other considerations, no other consideration can be treated as inherently more significant;
(4) While different judges might approach the question of the best interests of a child in different ways, it is important to ask oneself the right questions in an orderly manner in order to avoid the risk that the best interests of a child might be undervalued when other important considerations were in play;
(5) It is important to have a clear idea of a child's circumstances and of what is in a child's best interests before one asks oneself whether those interests are outweighed by the force of other considerations;
(6) To that end there is no substitute for a careful examination of all relevant factors when the interests of a child are involved in an article 8 assessment; and
(7) A child must not be blamed for matters for which he or she is not responsible, such as the conduct of a parent.
"In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration."
That general principle of international law has influenced the way in which the Strasbourg court has interpreted the ECHR: Neulinger v Switzerland (2010) 28 BHRC 706, para 131.
The decision letter
"Below is a consideration of why any interference is proportionate to the permissible aim".
She then referred to the family's unlawful residence and the fact that Mr Zoumbas and his wife had established their family life in the full knowledge that they both had no legal right to reside in the United Kingdom and could be removed at any time. She summarised the "appalling immigration history" of Mr and Mrs Zoumbas and the family's receipt of state benefits while receiving the unidentified credits which I have mentioned.
"Full consideration has been given to the best interests of your three children, which is a primary consideration in the evaluation of the proportionality of a decision to remove a family.
It is noted that you have not provided any information which pertains specifically to the best interests of your three children. A new immigration judge would conclude that although health care and education in Congo may not be of the same standard as in the United Kingdom, the children's best interests will be to remain with their parents and raised in their own culture. Furthermore, if you return together there is no reason to believe that relocation to Congo would have a particularly detrimental effect on your children."
Discussion of the challenges