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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Criminals Who Should Have Been Deported on the Run

Yesterday the Daily Mail reported that nearly 1,000 criminals who should have been back in jail after breaking the terms of their licence were still at large.

Today it emerges that around 200 of them are foreign nationals who were eligible to be deported at the end of any prison sentence.

Anyone born outside the EU who commits an offence which warrants more than 12 months in jail is automatically considered for deportation upon release - in serious cases such as violence, murder or rape deportation is supposed to become a certainty. 5,400 foreign convicted criminals were deported last year.

Ministers were plunged deeper into scandal last night as it emerged almost 200 of the dangerous criminals who are wrongly at large are foreign nationals.

Incredibly, a third of the convicts were released from jail on licence despite being told they were liable for deportation. Facing removal from Britain, the men - who include a rapist - went on the run.

Critics said it 'beggared belief' that ministers had been prepared to release on to the streets criminals who should have been booted out of the country.

The revelations followed the announcement on Monday that 954 criminals who were released early had been recalled to jail for breaching their licence requirements, but had never been tracked down by police.

The Government made no mention of the nationality of the convicts, who include murderers, rapists and paedophiles. But the Daily Mail has discovered that 192 of the 954 are classed as foreign nationals.

Some 64 had committed crimes which were so serious they should have been deported at the end of their sentence.

But instead of being held in detention until they could be kicked out, they were allowed to walk free on licence instead.

The scandal for the Home Office now moves significantly closer to the foreign prisoner fiasco, which claimed the scalp of Charles Clarke in 2006.

In that year, it emerged that 1,000 overseas inmates were freed without even being considered for deportation. Last night, Tory home affairs spokesman Chris Grayling said: 'This is fast turning into a major scandal.

'The failure to deport foreign criminals after they are released from jail has already cost the job of one Home Secretary, people simply will not understand why ministers have failed to get to grips with this problem.'

Critics said inmates were now being assessed for removal, but this did little good if they were being allowed to walk free.

If anything, this scandal makes obvious something most people already know - the government simply has very different priorities from the wider public.

If they cared who entered this country and who was allowed to stay, they wouldn't have made the same very serious error twice within a few years.

Most people are sacked over this sort of gross incompetence, particularly when their failures can be as serious as a matter of life or death.

It is not the Home Secretary who necessarily needs to resign (unless he has lied or tried to cover this up) - but the civil servants and other apparatchiks who keep making the same mistakes.