Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Charles Clarke Clings to Office

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Charles Clarke Clings to Office

Article excerpt

THE MURDER of PC Sharon Beshenivsky shocked Britain. The unarmed mother of three was shot dead when called to the scene of a robbery in Bradford last November. It has now emerged that one of those wanted in connection with the murder, a Somalian refugee called Mustaf Jama, had been allowed by the Home Office to remain in Britain despite a string of earlier convictions.

After last week's revelation that over a thousand offenders who should have been considered for deportation have stayed in this country, and some of them have committed further crimes of murder and rape, it has now emerged that nearly 2,000 other criminals have actually been given Home Office permission to remain here, for a variety of reasons which should count for little beside the imperative to protect the public.

In Jama's case, it was decided that returning him to Somalia, to which there are no direct flights, was too dangerous for him - or simply too difficult.

Either this individual's alleged rights have overridden the British public's right to expect protection from a serial offender or the Home Office has simply given up on trying to make the necessary diplomatic arrangements with Somalia.

Either way, this decision will be extremely hard for Charles Clarke to defend when he comes to the House of Commons today. Against a background of backbench resentment over the failings revealed at the Home Office, a day ahead of an expected drubbing for Labour in the local elections, Mr Clarke has been given 48 hours to restore his grip on the situation. But this once-robust Blair loyalist no longer projects the authority he once did.

When he was told, over 10 months ago, that convicted criminals were staying in Britain when they should not, he did not make the problem a priority, or brief the Prime Minister until much later. In the private sector, a senior executive who had presided over endlessly repeated instances of an organisation's failure to follow its own rules would unquestionably have been sacked.

Polls suggest the public sees that, and it seems that the Prime Minister is beginning to do so, too. It will be very hard for Mr Clarke to persuade anyone that he should preside over the wide-ranging changes now necessary to ensure his department carries out its basic function of protecting the public. …

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