Monday, August 20, 2007

Leftist Pinko Liberal

I've been involved in a bit of a debate with BondBloke over the last few days about which of us is more liberal. I think there is no contest, and now I intend to prove it, by blogging on a legal development which apparently receives universal condemnation by "right-thinking" members of society. This is the ruling by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal that Learco Chindamo, who convicted of the murder of the Headteacher Philip Lawrence in 1996, a murder he committed when he was 15, should not be deported when he is released from prison (apparently this is expected some time in 2008). Reports state that this has been done on "human rights grounds", but in reality, I suspect that it is more a matter of applying EU law. As an EU citizen who had resided in the UK for more than ten years before his conviction, and the lawfulness of whose residence does not appear to be called into question, Chindamo benefits from the protection of Article 28 of the Citizens' Rights Directive.

This provides:
1. Before taking an expulsion decision on grounds of public policy or public security, the host Member State shall take account of considerations such as how long the individual concerned has resided on its territory, his/her age, state of health, family and economic situation, social and cultural integration into the host Member State and the extent of his/her links with the country of origin.
2. The host Member State may not take an expulsion decision against Union citizens or their family members, irrespective of nationality, who have the right of permanent residence
on its territory, except on serious grounds of public policy or public security.
3. An expulsion decision may not be taken against Union citizens, except if the decision is based on imperative grounds of public security, as defined by Member States, if they:
(a) have resided in the host Member State for the previous 10 years;...

Of course the text of this measure, which the UK has accepted as an incident of its EU membership, may be grist to the mill of those calling for withdrawal from the EU, on the grounds it contaminates "our" sovereignty. On the other hand, people should recall that these things work both ways: there may be people in the prisons of other Member States who are not deported back to the UK when released, on exactly the same grounds that Chindamo is arguing he should stay in the UK. Namely that his "family and life were in the UK".

Unless one denies entirely the possiblity of rehabilitation, it also strikes me that such policies on expulsion are entirely rational. It can never be guaranteed, as I hinted above, that reform is "complete". But if one thing is likely to ensure than any rehabilitative effect of a prison sentence and any educational measures that have accompanied it is **not** successful, it is deportation to a country where a person has not resided since they were a very small child, the language which they may not speak, and where they lack family, other support mechanisms, and - crucially - employment opportunities which will reintegrate them socially and help to ensure that they do not reoffend. David Davis describes Italy as "his [i.e. Chindamo's] own country". But on what grounds is this so other than on the basis of holding a passport - which is something, effectively, he has been bequeathed by his parents (Chindamo was a minor at the time he was convicted and could not, therefore, have previously changed his nationality through his own actions)?

Moreover, it strikes me that there is a more general moral argument to be made about foreign prisoners. Frances Lawrence has always struck me as an interesting woman, motivated amongst other things by her faith and her underlying liberal principles. Yet in the BBC report I linked to above, she is quoted as saying that she is "unutterably depressed", "depressed" and "devastated" by the ruling. These seem understandable personal reactions on the part of a victim, yet in the Guardian article I linked to, she is shown struggling with the contradictions between her personal feelings and her underlying liberal beliefs. It is hard, and wrong, to generalise about foreign prisoners and deportation, but I think one point should be made - not least because it is probably an unpopular opinion drowned out by the cacophony of hardline views especially on the internet. This is the point that each individual foreign prisoner deserves to have individual consideration of his or her circumstances, in order to ensure that deportation does not become an arbitrary extra punishment imposed specifically upon them (and not upon nationals) not by the decision of a jury to convict and the decision of a judge to impose a particular sentence, but by an executive which claims the right to determine which persons who do not hold the magical badge of nationality are permitted to remain within the jurisdiction and which are not. Such an assessment is not a "human rights" issue as such, but rather a means-end calculation done on an individual basis. Interestingly enough, this is precisely what EU law mandates. Decisions on deportation must be based precisely on the risk which an individual poses to the host society, and not based on general precepts, and the decision must take into account issues about integration - not for human rights reasons, but for the perfectly good utilitarian reasons about propensity to reoffend if individuals are thrown into unfamiliar and hostile surroundings and are denied any meaningful support of family and friends. The UK and its residents no more wishes to see the mirror image of a UK passport holder in Chindamo's situation thrust upon it, than Italian residents would wish to see Chindamo sent there, despite his lack of a connection with the place other than the magical badge of the passport.

I strongly suspect that this leftist pinko liberal sentiment will show BondBloke in his true colours. I await his reaction...

Update: First, I have to report that entirely unsolicited BondBloke expressed a similar view to mine when he first heard this story on the Today programme this morning. So, I'll have to try harder. **This** isn't evidence of my being more liberal than him, but rest assured I will find evidence. Second, I am glad to see that I am not alone as a pinko liberal (armchair variety only) - see here. Perhaps predictably Jailhouse Lawyer takes a similar view. And a utilitarian view on the "sharing" of those with criminal backgrounds is put forward here.

Further update: a few more voices raised. They'll be shouted down by the "moral" majority.

Final update: A good fisking, by Chris Paul, of a typically rubbish post on the issue by Iain Dale, definitely appealing to the "moral" majority, which I won't link to. In fact, a surprising number of dissenters amongst the commentators on Dale's blog, suggesting that some sensible people still do read it (I would have deleted him ages ago from the sidebar here, except that the blog settings have malfunctioned and I can no longer change the template, sidebar, etc.).

Enough is enough.

4 Comments:

Anonymous BondBloke said...

Just a couple of comments really:-

a) I never realised that there was even a contest in the first place

and

b) why would I not agree with something that is a fundametal human right?

You are right BW you are going to have to try much harder than this...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007  
Blogger Tony Kennick said...

It is getting harder and harder to read the comments on Ian Dale's post on the subject without the anger building up inside.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007  
Blogger Julie said...

A very interesting post, and thanks for the mention.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007  
Blogger mewmewmew said...

I strongly suspect that this leftist pinko liberal sentiment will show BondBloke in his true colours. I await his reaction...



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