Today (10 November 2023), the High Court will hear the first case in the UK to challenge the government’s policy of electronically monitoring migrants by way of GPS tags

  • Wilsons is instructed by Mark Nelson, a car mechanic and father of five. Wilsons has represented migrants in numerous similar challenges where the government has agreed out-of-court settlements to remove tags, meaning this is the first opportunity for judges to examine the legality of the policy. 
  • Wilsons’ clients report that wearing these tags make them feel like animals and often fear walking outside in public for fear of stigmatisation, discrimination and ostracization1
  • The tags collect vast amounts of data including sensitive and personal data of wearers and uses this data for spurious and non-transparent purposes. There’s also significant evidence of the Home Office forcing people to wear tags despite them not functioning properly2

The grounds of claim being pursued in Mr Nelson’s claim are:

  1. The use of GPS electronic monitoring is a disproportionate and unlawful breach of the right to a private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 
  1. The government has no lawful authority to require people to wear broken tags. To do so is to exercise its power undemocratically and arbitrarily. 

Mark Nelson, the Claimant says:

Wearing a tag makes me feel like an animal. I am a 44-year old man with a life to live, and I feel so powerless that I am being tagged and watched by the government 24/7. It feels like they want to break me down and put me in a state of depression. I am no good to anyone feeling like this, not to myself, not to my family.  

My tag didn’t work properly for a period of almost six months. The government refused to fix it but insisted I had to keep wearing it. It’s a horrendous, purposeless and inhumane regime.

Solicitor for the Claimant, Katie Schwarzmann says:

We all want to live in a society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. There is little evidence to suggest that the government’s GPS tagging policy is a cost-effective or efficacious solution for managing immigration cases. This isn’t just an oversight: it’s a deliberate, wasteful and cruel misuse of public funds. Rather than squandering resources on such degrading tactics, the government should be rectifying the glaring inadequacies with the immigration system, particularly the reduction of the backlog.

Mr Nelson is represented by Katie Schwarzmann of Wilson Solicitors, Donnchadh Greene of Doughty Street Chambers and Sarah Hannett KC of Matrix Chambers.

1To read more about the “inhumane” effects of GPS tags on migrants, see this report by Public Law Project, Bail for Immigration Detainees, and Medical Justice.
2 To read more about the technological and data concerns with GPS tags, see Privacy International’s complaint against GPS tagging to the UK’s data protection authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office.

If you have a family law case you need assistance with, please contact Mavis on 020 8885 7986 to arrange for an appointment with a solicitor in the family team.

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