A British High Court judge tonight ordered the immediate release of American rapper Busta Rhymes who has been detained at London City Airport since he arrived in the UK this morning to play a charity gig.
Rhymes, real name Trevor George Smith Jr, was denied entry because it was alleged he had “unresolved convictions in the USA”, concert promoter Orange said.
The 36-year-old rapper is due to play at the Orange RockCorps gig at the Royal Albert Hall, London, tomorrow.
Mr Justice Flaux, who this morning granted an injunction by telephone to prevent Rhymes being returned to Amsterdam, had heard that the rapper had been kept in a room measuring 7ft by 8ft under the eyes of five armed police officers.
Ruling that it was arguable that Rhymes’s detention was unlawful, he said: “It seems to me that it is difficult to see upon what basis the temporary admission of the claimant or his temporary release into the jurisdiction has been refused…
“In all the circumstances it seems to me that he is entitled to an order that he be released forthwith or alternatively is entitled to bail.”
He said that the rapper intended to stay at the St Martin’s Lane Hotel, in London, until the concert, before returning to the US on Saturday morning.
The judge ordered a speedy hearing, likely to take place tomorrow afternoon at the High Court of Rhymes’s application for permission to bring a judicial review challenge of the legality of his detention.
Rhymes, who has already been allowed entry to the UK twice this year, in May and August, has a valid work permit for tomorrow's concert where he is due to perform before 5,000 charity volunteers.
His counsel, Amanda Weston, argued that the basis on which Rhymes was refused entry today was incorrect as the offences of assault and drink driving of which he had been convicted in the US constituted “misdemeanours” under New York criminal law rather than “felonies”.
She alleged that the immigration authorities, who had accepted that Rhymes was not a risk to the public or likely to abscond, were playing a “waiting game” as the rapper was so fed up with the situation that he had got to the point where he thought it was not worth his while to stay and would leave the country voluntarily if not released.
Jeremy Johnson, counsel for the Home Office, told the judge that the question of whether to refuse entry was being reconsidered on revised grounds, rather than on the basis of the erroneous information received.
The judge concluded that, on the material before the court, Miss Weston had established a sufficiently arguable case that the refusal to permit entry was unlawful, so that it followed that it was also arguable that the decision to detain was unlawful.
Tomorrow’s hearing will focus on the legality of the decision to refuse entry.