The deadline debate over Abu Qatada’s appeal against his deportation is now mired in complex legal analysis most of which won’t make much sense to people who aren’t lawyers.
But most legal experts seem to agree that the law simply isn’t clear on whether the deadline to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights was Monday night or Tuesday night.
Lawyers are even debating whether the English version of the law and the French version are different.
Clarity will only come when the judges themselves rule on the question at a later date.
One polticial question for the Home Secretary today is whether she was told that there was legal ambiguity? So far she seems to be saying that she never had any doubt about the deadline.
Theresa May’s statement to the Commons this morning also suggests that the court can consider an appeal even if it is made outside the deadline.
A spokesperson for the European Court of Human Rights has told the Press Association that it cannot. But what if the deadline is unclear..?
Ultimately it’s still likely that the government will now get it’s way and Abu Qatada will be deported, but not before lots of this kind of legal argument about details.
The problem is that whilst politicians like to deal in certainties lawyers know the law can be unclear. But that’s not the courts fault, it’s the politicians who write the law.