Foreign prisoners escape deportation

More than 1,000 foreign prisoners have been released in the UK instead of being deported, Home Office figures have shown.

The number includes three murderers and nine rapists, as well as five people convicted of committing sex offences on children, seven convicted for other sex offences, 57 for violent offences and two for manslaughter.

There were also 41 burglars, 20 drug importers, 54 people convicted of assault and 27 convicted of indecent assault.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has apologised for the failure and acknowledged that the public will be angered by the oversight.

He said that the problem had occurred because the Prison Service was not focused on the nationality of prisoners, while the Immigration and Nationality Directorate was preoccupied with other matters.

Mr Clarke said: "We simply didn't make the proper arrangements for identifying and considering removal in line with the growth of numbers that were there.

"This is a failure of the Home Office and its agencies for which I take responsibility."

So far, the IND has located 107 of the former prisoners, 20 of whom have been deported.

The IND said that 160 of the criminals had been recommended for deportation by the courts at the end of their sentence. Lin Horner, IND Director General, said that 14 of those former prisoners had been located, five of whom have been deported, while the other nine were considered inappropriate for removal.

The number of prisoners in England and Wales born overseas has increased sharply from 4,300 in 1996 to more than 10,000 at the end of February this year.

Commenting on the revelation, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "It is extraordinary that so many people who have been convicted of serious offences and should have been considered for deportation have simply disappeared.

"All the government's tough talk on crime counts for nothing in the face of this incompetence. What possible excuse can there be for this disgraceful state of affairs?"


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