The claimant Pakistani national challenged the home secretary’s refusal of a British passport to which she claimed to be entitled as a British citizen by descent.

Begum v Secretary of State for the Home Department: Queen’s Bench Division, Administrative Court (Birmingham): 12 September 2014

Crown – Prerogative – Passport – Claimant Pakistani national applying for British passport on basis British citizen by descent – Defendant Secretary of State refusing to issue British passport

In November 1988, the claimant was born in Pakistan. She claimed to be the daughter of MK, who was born in Pakistan, but was a British citizen. The British High Commission in Pakistan refused her passport application. In May 2013, by way of review, the Overseas Passport Management Unit effectively refused to issue the claimant a British passport to which she claimed to be entitled as a British citizen by descent.

The claimant issued proceedings against the defendant secretary of state, challenging that decision.

The claimant contended, among other things, that the secretary of state had unlawfully applied an excessive standard of proof, namely, beyond all reasonable doubt, in considering whether the claimant had demonstrated that she was the daughter of MK. The secretary of state accepted that the standard of proof to be applied in demonstrating citizenship for purposes other than the issue of a passport was the balance of probabilities, but contended that the standard applied by the passport office had always been beyond reasonable doubt.

The application would be allowed.

Absent specific statutory provision, there had to be only one standard to be applied by law in demonstrating citizenship, which applied for all purposes. Accordingly, the normal civil standard had to apply (see [24] of the judgment).

The secretary of state’s decision had been erroneous in law and had to be quashed, as it had applied the wrong legal standard. The matter had to go back to the decision-taker to determine whether the relevant documents, in combination with the other evidence, made it more likely than not that they showed the paternity claimed (see [24], [25] of the judgment).

Adam Pipe (instructed by Wornham & Co Solicitors) for the claimant; Naomi Candlin (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) for the secretary of state.