The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Lunatic Asylum

I am not in the least bit surprised at the brouhaha over the release of foreign offenders into the community after they have served prison sentences when many of them should have been deported.
My court's area is very diverse, and we often have to deal with foreign nationals. Some of them go to prison, but on release they just go back to being asylum seekers, a status that can easily continue for years. The system simply can't cope. To give an example, there are many Chinese nationals who have entered the country illegally. They are for the most part entitled to no benefit, nor are they allowed to work. There is no room for them in detention (and no prospect of building any more space, for planning and financial reasons) so they scratch a living, often by selling counterfeit DVDs and CDs or other pirated goods originating in the Far East. We have imprisoned some of these people (we had no alternative, since they had breached suspended sentences) but their lawyers' argument has some weight - if he can't work and can't claim, what's he supposed to live on?
In addition, there is the fact that China refuses to accept them back, so deportation is more or less impossible. Add to that the fact that we have no real idea who many of them actually are since they arrive in the UK without documents.
I am not making a political point here, as I don't think that it's a party issue. Nobody could have forseen the millions of people who are moving around the world in search of a better life (it isn't just a UK problem either) and there are no plans and no strategy to deal with them.
Just a final example of the sort of problems we face: DVLA will not issue a driving licence to an asylum seeker if his identity is uncertain (as in so many cases) as that would involve the Government issuing them with an official document. Therefore they cannot take a driving test and by definition cannot insure a car. And yet they take the kind of crap jobs that often involve working odd hours in out of the way places, so to get there they buy an old banger and take a chance on driving it. When they are caught and come before magistrates you can imagine the difficulty.