A criminal deportation

The UK media is mightily concerned about a court ruling that the murderer of teacher Stephen Lawrence shouldn’t be deported after he’s served his sentence.

The dead man’s wife is reportedly angry about the ruling that he should stay in the UK. She blames the Human Rights Act for the fear in which she claims she will live. The tabloid press are doing their best to stir up all the crime hysteria they manage out of this story. Surprise, surprise, when the tabloids are such devoted supporters of the Human Rights Act… (not.)

The widow of murdered teacher Philip Lawrence has said she was “utterly devastated” by the decision not to deport her husband’s killer.
Frances Lawrence said she had been told Learco Chindamo would be deported to Italy, where his father was from.
The government said it would challenge “robustly” the decision to allow Chindamo, who stabbed Mr Lawrence in 1995 when he was 15, to stay in the UK. (From the BBC)

It’s a really sad story. However,it just reinforces the point in TW’s posts that victims and their families are not always the best judges of how an offender should be treated. That’s supposed to be the job of the law, although the combined efforts of the media and the government are doing their best to present the courts as pampering murderers.

A few facts about this case suggest the issue is rather more complex than the calls to deport him would allow.

The killer is indeed marginally more “Italian” than the average Italian-American but that’s about the extent of his supposed Italianess. His father was Italian. He lived in Italy until he was 3, came to the UK at the age of 6 and committed the crime when he was 15. It is a fair bet that he doesn’t speak Italian.

He didn’t deliberately come to the UK to commit murder. He was brought here by his mother and was raised in the UK, as an English person. Like a lot of English teenagers, he did badly at school, joined a gang and carried a weapon.

The crime appears to have been one of those senseless spur-of-the-moment adolescent-in-a-gang crimes that would be seen as a child’s cry for attention, if their outcome wasn’t so devastating.

He didn’t stalk Lawrence and deliberately choose him as a victim. There is absolutely no reason to believe that he represents any ongoing threat to Stephen Lawrence’s widow or their child.

Although you can usually take prisoners’ remorse with a kilogram packet of salt, he expresses remorse and tries to talk other youths out of throwing their lives away according to his lawyer.

You can certainly understand why Stephen Lawrence’s widow doesn’t want to think of him being free and alive. She has had a horrific experience that will always be with her. I’m sure that she wants to tear the killer limb from limb, as anyone in her position would. All the same, her views on what should now happen to the killer are no more relevant than anyone else’s.

The whole topic becomes murkier when you think about why it has become a bandwagon that the government chooses to jump on.

Extradition to another EC country is almost unheard of. Surely, under EC free movement laws, once dumped in Italy, Chindamo could just jump on a train and come straight back to the UK?

Extradition of someone, who committed a crime as a child, to a country in which he would be a complete stranger is just absurd.

There is pretty strong evidence of racism at work here. The killer looks “foreign” – half Phillipino, half-Italian. Ergo, the assumption is that he can get deported at the drop of a hat. Are we going to start shipping off all released murderers who can’t claim four British-born grandparents? Is there still room in Australia?

There is a clear bias in what crimes become causes celebres. Stephen Lawrence was a headmaster so people paid much more attention, thanks to the media. Murdered manual workers don’t make high profile cases, otherwise the government would be shipping off released murders every week.

All the same, the murderer was sentenced for his crime by a court of law. It wasn’t a particularly light sentence. A judge weighed up the circumstances and applied the appropriate penalty. If anyone felt that the sentence was wrong, that was the time to appeal. The court saw no reason to call for his deportation when he was sentenced. What has changed?

(Even the lawyers opposing his staying in this country argued that media attention was the “threat” that could result from his staying in the UK. No one has suggested that he is likely to kill another person, although rehabilitation seems to be the last of anyone’s concerns.)

There is constant media and political pressure – fitting so well into an increasingly authoritarian general climate – to present any human rights legislation as tying the hands of the police and giving free rein to criminals and terrorists.

The more we treat any constitutional guarantees of fair treatment by the law as an unnecessary luxury, the more we throw aside liberal democracy’s claim to the moral high ground.

This case has become a test of the British government’s capacity to do silly things in defiance of European Human Rights law. Oh, these burdensome 20th century international standards.

Wasn’t the lack of non-oppressive systems of justice and law why the EC started to get sniffy about some Eastern European countries joining? Or keeps foiling Turkey’s attempts to join the EC?

3 thoughts on “A criminal deportation

  1. How much longer until the tabloids start demanding public hanging again?

    But seriously what is it with the tabloids and stirring up fear and emotions? One of the reasons I despise papers like the Daily Mail and the Sun, is because I can imagine them salivating over the disappearence of another young child, like Madeline McCann or Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, because of the boost to sales it offers. It allows them to do massive spreads and front pages which are guranteed to sell. Call me cynical but I truly believe they love these tragic events; like vultures they swoop in on the first sign of tragedy. The also love to further emotionalise these cases by given the children even more child-like names: James Bulger became Jamie, and Madeline became Maddie.

    And of course all this massive media attention on a few tragic, yet rare, cases, means that the actual risk to children is blown massively out of proportion. The same happens with fear of ‘youths’ and ‘yobs’. Not every teenager is some boozed up druggy, looking to stab you for your mobile. And yet the majority of articles about teenagers are negative. They create more and more sensationlised reports which create more fear and loathing, as can be seen in what you wrote.

    The Stephen Lawrence case was tragic, but I totally agree that we cannot allow the victims of such crimes to decide the punishments, else we revert back to ‘An eye for an eye’, that was so beloved by the Old Testament.

    Okay, this comment kind of jumped around the place, but I think we can all take away from it: ‘Tabloids bad, thinking good’.

  2. Pingback: Experiment in fear » Why Dont You Blog?

  3. There is no such thing as the true justice that we have all clamored for at some time or another.

    What there CAN BE is a system in which fair laws, enacted with rational thinking, with the open possibility of being changed if the facts so warrrant, are fairly executed. That’s the best we can hope for. If things don’t seem “fair” after that you have to accept the determination and make efforts to change the law if you believe it is faulty. But your individual, anecdotal, situation is fairly poor evidence that a law needs to be changed. There must always be a wide array of evidence for such change.

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