Home Secretary Theresa May Wants to Deport More Foreign Criminals from UK
By Timur Moon | February 17, 2013 10:19 PM EST
Home Secretary Theresa May is to toughen up laws governing the deportation of foreign criminals after accusing judges of "ignoring parliament's wishes" by allowing them to remain in Britain.
May blamed judges for routinely flouting guidelines and failing to deport convicted rapists and violent criminals, citing their right to a family life under human rights legislation.
Guidance aimed at limiting a criminal's right to remain in the UK under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights was approved by MPs last year.
But May accused judges of sabotaging parliament's express wish to deport foreigners found guilty of serious crime.
May said judges had "got it into their heads" that the human rights laws "could not be curbed".
"Time and time again, we are treated to the spectacle of people who have been found guilty of rape or serious assault being given the right to stay in this country," she wrote in today's Mail on Sunday.
"Unfortunately, some judges evidently do not regard a debate in Parliament on new immigration rules, followed by the unanimous adoption of those rules, as evidence that Parliament actually wants to see those new rules implemented."
One judge had rejected MPs' guidance on the grounds that it had been subject only to "a weak form of Parliamentary scrutiny", said May.
In an article headlined "It is not for judges to be legislators: Home secretary's public attack on rebel judges", May said parliament was "the ultimate law-maker", adding: "It is essential to democracy that the elected representatives of the people make the laws that govern this country - and not the judges.
"Yet some judges seem to believe that they can ignore Parliament's wishes if they think that the procedures for parliamentary scrutiny have been 'weak'. That appears actually to mean that they can ignore Parliament when they think it came to the wrong conclusion.
"A minority think it is their role to determine whether or not foreigners who commit serious crimes shall be deported."
Labour has pledged to back the new legislation, warning parliamentary guidance alone could not overturn the legal precedent set by earlier court judgements.
Home Office figures suggest that 177 foreign criminals avoided deportation between 2011 to 2012 after convincing judges of their right to a family life in Britain.
The new laws will spell out in clear terms that violent foreign criminals must be sent home, said May.
"Once primary legislation has been enacted, it is surely inconceivable that judges will maintain that it is they, rather than Parliament, who are entitled to decide how to balance the foreigner's right to family life against our nation's right to protect itself," said May.
She warned that delays passing the legislation would lead to "more victims of violent crimes committed by foreigners who should have been, and could have been, deported".
"The inevitable delays in passing primary legislation will mean there will be many more foreign criminals who avoid deportation on the basis that they have a family here," she said.
Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, an Iraqi Kurd, was jailed for four months in 2003 after killing a 12-year-old girl in a hit-and-run in Lancashire. Ibrahim's lawyers successfully argued that human rights laws permitted him to stay in the UK, because of his family.
Learco Chindamo, an Italian national, was jailed for life after killing headteacher Philip Lawrence in 1995. His lawyers argued that deporting him would be illegal as he was from a European Union country and had lived in the UK for 10 years at the time of the attack.
A Jamaican drug dealer was granted the right to remain in the UK with his family on his release after the High Court blocked a Home Office decision to deport him. The court said the Home Office had not properly considered the effect his deportation would have on his nine-year-old son, who suffers from attention deficit hyperactive disorder.
Last February, the Appeal Court quashed a ruling which allowed Rocky Gurung, from Nepal, to remain in the UK after he was jailed for manslaughter for being part of a gang that beat a man before throwing his body into the Thames.
The judge upheld Gurung's claim that deporting him to Nepal would breach his right to family life, even though he was single, had no children and lived with his parents. The Appeal Court called the judgement "an error", saying it looked like a "search for reasons for not deporting him".
May said she was determined to bring in laws making deportation the norm in all but "extraordinary circumstances".
She said she respected laws protecting human rights, which she called "an essential part of any decent legal system".
"It is about how to balance rights against each other: in particular, the individual's right to family life, the right of the individual to be free from violent crime, and the right of society to protect itself against foreign criminals," she said.
Despite being highly critical of "some judges", May said that she was "a great admirer of most of the judges in Britain".
She accepted the need for legislation to be "reviewed and restrained" by the judiciary, but added: "Our democracy is subverted when judges decide to take on that role for themselves."
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