Deportation lawyers 'taking us for a ride': Justice Secretary warns

Deportation lawyers ‘are taking us for a ride’: Justice Secretary warns over abuse of asylum laws after celebrity-backed bid to block Jamaica flight returning Caribbean criminals

  • Sweeping measures will be introduced to ‘streamline’ immigration system  
  • Robert Buckland accused lawyers of ‘taking the public for a ride’ with challenges
  • Follows intervention to stop deportation flight of Jamaican criminals last year 

The Lord Chancellor has blasted lawyers who deliberately delay immigration cases by lodging last-minute human rights claims.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Robert Buckland confirmed that the Government will introduce sweeping measures to ‘streamline’ the asylum and immigration system.

He accused lawyers of ‘taking the public for a ride’ with legal challenges at the last moment – as with the controversial deportation flight of Jamaican criminals in December.

Celebrities including actress Thandie Newton and model Naomi Campbell were among those who called for the deportations to be stopped, comparing the criminals with the victims of the Windrush scandal.

Jermaine Stewart from Liverpool was jailed for six years in 2014 for raping a woman who fell asleep on his sofa. He was removed from the Home Office charter plane for Jamaica

 Thandie Newton (left) and model Naomi Campbell (right) were among those who called for the deportations to be stopped, comparing the criminals with the victims of the Windrush scandal

At the time, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the comparison was ‘deeply offensive’.

Mr Buckland, who is also Justice Secretary, said it ‘breaks my heart’ to see laws that were designed to protect the vulnerable being abused in undeserving immigration cases.

‘What I think has gone wrong is that the process has become very, very lengthy and, frankly, sometimes deliberately elongated in order to buy people more time in the country,’ he said. ‘That, to me, isn’t a proper reflection of due process.’ He added: ‘That’s why both the Home Secretary and I are very anxious to make sure that we can strip out unnecessary procedures while preserving the rights of the applicant and the interests of justice.

‘What I don’t think people like is being taken for a ride by people who keep on inventing new grounds of appeal.’

Miss Patel said last autumn that ‘activist lawyers’ were frustrating the removal of Channel migrants. Mr Buckland, a barrister and former part-time judge, stepped in to ask her to tone down her rhetoric, it was reported at the time. 

Last year’s Jamaica deportation case saw 23 Jamaican nationals, including murderers and rapists, pulled off a Home Office charter plane as lawyers made new claims including allegations the criminals had been victims of modern slavery.

Among those taken off was Jermaine Stewart from Liverpool who was jailed for six years in 2014 for raping a woman who fell asleep on his sofa.

Mr Buckland said: ‘The modern slavery laws are such an important, ground-breaking piece of legislation. It breaks my heart to think it might be potentially open to abuse by people just because they want to launch another argument to buy them more time.’

He added: ‘This country has a great reputation of being a safe haven for people of all faiths and sexualities, from the Huguenots through to the Kindertransport. I’m proud of that.’

Mr Buckland also confirmed plans to restrict the use of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, banning ‘torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’, which is often cited by foreign national criminals seeking to avoid being deported.

In today’s interview, the Lord Chancellor added that it would be April next year before the courts begin to get back to normal, as crown courts in England and Wales struggle with a backlog of 56,000 cases.

n The Parole Board could be renamed in a major shake-up to increase transparency, the Lord Chancellor said. Mr Buckland argued that the role of the board, which assesses the safety of a prisoner’s release, was often confused with probation. He indicated wider reforms than the previously announced plans to allow the public to attend parole hearings.

Wigs are hair to stay! Robert Buckland rules out barristers removing their hairpieces during court hearings 

 By Home Affairs Correspondent

Britains Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the 17th century-style wig and black gown would never be changed on his watch

Courts may have embraced innovations such as online hearings during the pandemic – but the barrister’s wig is here to stay, the Lord Chancellor has insisted.

Asked if the 17th century-style wig and black gown were due an update, Robert Buckland, pictured, said: ‘Never, never, never. I make no apology for it, and it will never happen on my watch. I think it adds to the solemnity of the proceedings, and I’m a strong believer in it.’

The costume is even more important in the age of video trials, he said, adding: ‘It’s a wonderful way of reminding people even though you’re online and may be sitting in your front room… it is still a court.’

He said he worried people may ‘start to think that it’s all a bit more informal than it really should be’.

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