Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Foreign Offenders: Questions Go On

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Foreign Offenders: Questions Go On

Article excerpt

CHARLES CLARKE took a leaf out of the Ruth Kelly textbook as he defended himself in the Commons today over his department's release of 1,023 foreign criminals who should have been considered for deportation.

Like the Education Secretary in her own Commons fightback earlier this year, Mr Clarke handled the statistics efficiently. The trouble is that the numbers, however confidently asserted, reveal gaping holes in the Home Office's performance of its duty to protect the public. Of the 79 serious criminals involved, 38 are still on the loose. For Mr Clarke to claim they are "in our sights" is Wild West fantasy - they are not under lock and key, but presumably - at large, and, as some victims already know to their cost, prone to reoffend.

Of the overall total of 1,023 non-British criminals, a decision to deport has so far been made in fewer than half those cases. Mr Clarke's promise of a consultation paper on the wider issues revealed troubling new aspects of the affair - why, for example, is there no automatic bar already to prevent those deported from trying to return?

As for the Prime Minister's attempt to blame the matter on previous administrations, that had little logic - in the early 1990s, the scale of asylum applications was far lower. It was also Mr Blair's government which incorporated European human rights rulings into British law, hugely complicating the task of removing criminals as well as terrorism suspects and failed asylum seekers.

Neither Mr Clarke nor Mr Blair properly addressed this point.

Embarrassingly, it emerged separately that some deportations have been successfully carried out even to uncooperative countries like Somalia - raising the question of why Somali offender Mustaf Jama, allowed to remain here by the Home Office and now wanted for over the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky, was not among them.

Meanwhile, the evidence produced by the Opposition of a system in which deportation figures were systematically massaged will rightly renew public concerns. Mr Clarke has begun making appropriate noises about establishing offenders' nationality and considering deportation earlier in each case. …

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