Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Proceeding Energetically

I've run out of words to describe the awfulness of Charles Clarke. He's decided that a tough new law is the only way to solve his current crisis. How utterly unsurprising.
Well, I suppose, having been dragged in front of Parliament, he has to say *something*... so it's back to the tried and trusted method of using headline-grabbing authoritarian measures to mask incompetence and failure.
Having just listened to PMQs, it seems pretty clear that Blair is fully behind this move and there's more than a good chance that it was he who instigated it. As usual, the government's actions are completely detached from the consequences of their soundbite authoritarianism for people in the real world.

I've been sent a real world example of what's happening at this very moment as a result of the inability of the Home Office to competantly implement the current law. This example also illustrates the realities of the tough new laws which Blair and Clarke are now proposing. This case concerns a Chilean national by the name of Ernesto Leal and the following details have been supplied by his sister, Sonia.

Mr Leal, along with the rest of his family, arrived in Britain in 1977 as political refugees fleeing the Pinochet regime. He was 13 years old when he arrived. The family were granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and Ernesto spent his formative years in Scotland where his family was adopted by the Scottish National Union of Mineworkers. They settled in Cowdenbeath, Fife. Ernesto later moved to London.

Just over two years ago Mr Leal was sentenced to 3 ½ years for GBH with intent. He served, on the judges advice, 18 months where he served the majority of his sentence in an open prison, Ernesto was later released and electronically tagged for 4 months and reported weekly as part of his probation which was relaxed to once a month after 4 weeks. He has no previous criminal record or convictions and this was his first offence.

At 8.00am on Monday 1st of May 2006 he was arrested and taken from outside his home and held at Bishopsgate Police Station with a deportation order. He was later sent to Belmarsh Detention Centre.

The detention form states that
• He is likely to abscond
• His release is not considered conducive to the public good

The deportation form states
• He will be deported to Jamaica

Mr Leal, it should be noted, served most of his sentence in an open prison, not something usually considered for those likely to abscond. No reason has been given to why he would be deported to Jamaica given that he is of Chilean origin.

Sonia writes:
There is no question of his status in this country, he has been punished and has served his sentenced and should not be discriminated further, he has not committed any further offences and is therefore no cause for public concern, in addition to this several mistakes have been made by both the Home Office and The Metropolitan Police Force who carried out my brother’s arrest.

1. There was no Home Office case worker present so my family have been unable to petition for an appeal.
2. The Home Office detention officer did not have an up to date report from the probation services.
3. The arresting officers advised my brother’s partner that he was being arrested because he had not given his whereabouts. This was not the case as he had been tagged and reported to his probation officer once a week for the full time he was required to do so.
4. His status is not in question as he had previously provided, through lawyers, his passport with a Home Office stamp clearly stating that he has ‘indefinate leave to remain’.
5. He has been unnecessarily sent to a detention centre merely because there was no Home Office caseworker present.
6. My family was advised that his deportation to Jamaica could be a typo which is indicative of the mistakes made on my brothers case.

This process would have been facilitated had there been a Home Office Case worker been present during and throughout the arrest, we had all the documentation present at the Police Station and were not able to present our case and achieve a speedy solution and either have my brother out on bail or that his case be heard outside the detention centre.
It seems highly unlikely that Ernesto Leal would have been deported, had he been considered for deportation in the normal way. Now, with the media up in arms and the government desperate to look tough, Mr Leal is apparently to be deported to Jamaica.

This case says a great deal about the reality behind Clarke's assertion on Friday that "consideration of further cases is proceeding energetically". Energetically, yes but competantly?

It is to be hoped that the Home Office will see sense with regard to Mr Leal's case. It seems that this will be more likely if people start to make a noise about it. Join me do if you're so inclined.

Mr Leal has lived in the UK for almost 30 years. He should not now be forced out because of this government's belated but energetic attempts to over-compensate for its own blundering incompetance.

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