Jamaica born offenders deportation battle reaches High Court

18 February 2020, 06:24

The planned deportation flight was halted after a court order with some detainees taken off
The planned deportation flight was halted after a court order with some detainees taken off. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A High Court battle over the planned deportation of convicted criminals to Jamaica is set to reach the High Court later.

The case comes a week after the Home Office was prevented from deporting some foreign national offenders over concerns some of the detainees might have been unable to get legal advice due having poor mobile phone reception or lack of access to a phone.

Twenty-five of the detainees were taken off the flight while a further eight were removed from the plane after bringing legal actions against the Home Office.

The first court hearing in Detention Action's case against the Home Office will be in London before Mr Justice Supperstone at 10.30am on Tuesday.

In an urgent telephone hearing last Monday, the charity argued that some detainees at Colnbrooke and Harmondsworth detention centres had been unable to access legal advice because issues with an O2 phone mast in the area meant their phones did not work.

Lady Justice Simler ordered that those detainees should not be removed from the UK unless the Home Office was satisfied they "had access to a functioning, non-O2 Sim card on or before February 3".

The judge granted the order without a court hearing following an urgent application on paper.

She later rejected a bid by the Home Office to have the order reconsidered, saying it was "clearly arguable" that five working days was necessary to secure access to justice.

The judge said it was Home Office policy that detainees must be given a minimum of five working days to enable them to seek legal advice and that they were given Sim cards for this reason.

The legal proceedings were launched in light of the recommendations in the leaked Windrush Lessons Learned review that deportations of people who have been here since childhood should be stopped and reconsidered.

A draft of a report commissioned by the Government in the wake of the Windrush scandal recommended that ministers rethink the flights, particularly for those who came to the UK as children.

Written in June 2019, the document seen by the media said: "Government should review its policy and approach to FNOs (foreign national offenders), if necessary through primary legislation.

"It should consider ending all deportations of FNOs where they arrived in the UK as children (say before age of 13). Alternatively - deportation should only be considered in the most severe cases."

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: "The Government's manufactured outrage in response to last week's Court of Appeal judgment sought to distract from its own failings to uphold access to justice, an ancient English law principle that protects us all.

"Everyone in the UK, regardless of their politics, should be alarmed by a Government that trash talks the rule of law.

"Judicial review safeguards the rights of everyone in this country and is one of the few tools by which ordinary people can hold Government to account.

"The Government's appeal has not yet materialised. But Detention Action is heading back to court to seek evidence that the Court of Appeal order has been complied with and the law upheld."

In a statement after the flight left last Tuesday, a Home Office spokeswoman said: "Today 17 serious foreign criminals were deported from the UK.

"They were convicted of rape, violent crimes and drug offences and had a combined sentence length of 75 years, as well as a life sentence.

"We make no apology whatsoever for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals.

"We will be urgently pursuing the removal of those who were prevented from boarding the flight due to a legal challenge over a mobile network failure."