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Non-deportation of foreign prisoners shows huge incompetence of Theresa May

The Home OfficeJohn Reid was right: the Home Office was “not fit for purpose”. We’ve now learnt it still isn’t. The NAO report into the huge Home Office muddle over deportation of foreign criminals is a textbook of persisting ineptitude which points the finger directly at the Home Secretary, Theresa May. It’s not as though she wasn’t warned. This issue brought down Charles Clarke in 2006 when it was revealed that on his watch the Home Office failed even to consider deportation of some of the 10,000 foreign prisoners who account for one-eighth of the inmates of jails in England and Wales.

When Clarke was Home Secretary, his department released 1,013 foreign nationals without considering the option of deportation. When Clarke was sacked, Reid took over and the number deported doubled to over 5,600 in 2008-9. May followed, vowing to tackle the ‘scandal’ amid the usual Tory tabloid noise about the Human Rights Act preventing the removal of foreign criminals. May talked tough, but the latest revelations will go a long way to shredding her reputation for sound and competent control of the benighted Home Office.

The NAO report uncovered the disturbing fact that 1 in 6 foreign offenders living in the community (760 out of 4,200) has absconded, including 58 described as dangerous who have been missing since 2010 – an issue tragically brought to public attention by the murder of Alice Gross for which the main suspect was the Latvian killer Arnis Zalkalns. It also found that police were negligent in not conducting overseas criminal record checks on more than two-thirds of arrested foreign criminals.

But the most staggering discovery was that the number of Home Office staff had been increased nearly 10-fold to deal with the problem, yet the number of foreign prisoners had increased since 2010 from 10,230 to 10,650. Even more lethally for May’s reputation the number removed from the UK actually fell for 5,600 to 5,100 last year.

Cameron typically tried to blame this mess on human rights legislation. But the NAO report makes absolutely clear that no more than 100 out of 5,000 deportations a year 2%) are blocked over the right to family life. The overwhelming reasons were the failure of Home Office officials to fill in the necessary forms, failure to get the papers where they were needed, and failure even to book the plane tickets that were required.

Even worse, the NAO report revealed a regular breakdown in communications between the Prison Service and the UK Border Agency – a failure that still appears to be continuing. Even when they do talk to each other, they apparently still get it wrong. The NAO found that when the Prison Service did tell the Home Office that a criminal had been jailed, the form either had the wrong date for earliest possible release or it was missing altogether.

In days past all this would have been enough for the Minister responsible either to resign or be sacked. Even in these present times when nobody seems to be held accountable for anything, the incompetence displayed here is so egregious that May should either go or be forced out.

CC BY NC  Image credit: The Home Office front door by George Olcott at Flikr

One Comment

  1. John P Reid says:

    The twaddle about the HRA preventing foreign pioneers not being deported after they’d served their sentence was ridiculous ,it a dozen at the most.
    For the record of the 1073 foreign prisoners released without being deported, 433 were when Charles a clarke was Home Secretary, all be it 278 were released when the home office twigged what was going on, the first 640 released without deportation between July 2001 and December 2004 David Blunkett was home secretary

    On the Scandal Breaking Blunkett said heads should roll, without bothering to think that it might have been his fault,

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