'Exemplary' soldier denied citizenship wins review

Sapper Poloko Hiri Image copyright POLOKO HIRI
Image caption Sapper Poloko Hiri has been described as an "exemplary" soldier

A former soldier denied UK citizenship owing to a speeding conviction is to have the decision reviewed.

Sapper Poloko Hiri, who served with the Army for four years and is now a reservist, had an "exemplary" record.

He sought citizenship fearing imprisonment in his native Botswana but his application was refused in 2012.

A High Court judge has now ruled the decision-making process was legally flawed and should be reconsidered by the home secretary.

The 33-year-old joined the Army in August 2008 and served with 73 Armoured Engineer Squadron for four years before leaving for a university degree in architectural technology.

Sapper Hiri, now a member of the British Army Reserve, applied for naturalisation in February 2012 on the grounds that it is a criminal offence in Botswana to be in possession of the uniform of the armed forces of any foreign country.

'Hard-working soldier'

UK authorities decided Sapper Hiri did not have the "good character" required for British citizenship because of a speeding conviction which will not be spent until 2016.

In November 2011, he had admitted exceeding a temporary 50mph speed limit on the M1, for which he received a £100 fine and five points on his licence.

Sapper Hiri sought a judicial review after an application for the decision to be reconsidered was previously refused.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The home secretary has been told to reconsider the decision

In the High Court on Tuesday, Mrs Justice Lang said that when deciding if an applicant met the good character requirement, all aspects of their character had to be considered by the home secretary.

She said the citizenship bid was supported by evidence from Sapper Hiri's commanding officer Maj Chloe Plimmer that he was an "intelligent, motivated and hard-working soldier" with an "exemplary" record of conduct in his four years in the British army.

Maj Plimmer said: "His character has been put to the test on various military training exercises where his peers have had to depend on him in austere and challenging environments.

"To see that Sapper Hiri has been denied British citizenship for what is deemed as 'bad character' directly contradicts his performance as a serving soldier."

His solicitor Toufique Hossain said: "Our argument was simply that a man who gave his life to fight for this country, and in every other way but for one speeding offence, showed good character, should not be deprived of British citizenship.

"It is a shame this had to go all the way to the High Court. The home secretary should have seen sense long ago instead of fighting this case."