If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Yet more ammunition for the Daily Mail

I was appalled to read this today:

An asylum seeker who fatally struck a girl with his car then fled the scene has won the right to stay in the UK. Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, 31, of Blackburn, hit Amy Houston, 12, in 2003. He was later jailed for four months. He faced deportation but successfully invoked human rights legislation granting him the right to a "family life" in the UK.

I don't want this to turn into a rant about asylum seekers, but this story does no good whatsoever for those who wish Britain to be kind and helpful to those fleeing tyranny elsewhere in the world. Let's look at the facts.

Ibrahim had either never held a driving licence, or had been disqualified from driving, depending on which story you read. He hit a young girl while driving illegally, and ran her over, leaving her underneath the car. He then ran away from the scene, and the girl died later in hospital. He was caught and convicted of both offences - driving without a licence, and leaving the scene of an accident.

I'll gloss over the 'driving without a licence' part, as that seems to quite OK these days, earning the offender little more than a slap on the wrist. But to leave a girl under the wheels of your car, and run away from the scene? That is less 'leaving the scene of an accident' and more like manslaughter to me. If he had been a little more courageous, or honest, and called for an ambulance instead of legging it, the girl may have survived, so her death is at least partly his fault (as opposed to her injuries, which were entirely his fault). And what did he get for this act of callousness? Four months in prison. Four lousy months in prison. And that, as we all know, means two months, less time spent on remand. I'd be surprised if he even needed to take his toothbrush in with him.

Now, if I were Mr Ibrahim, and I had caused the death of a young person in a country where I had fled for safe haven, I think I would serve my sentence and then quietly go somewhere else. I would feel guilty and embarrassed, knowing that I had done such a terrible thing in a country which had taken me in, and fed and housed me. The law (or at least part of it) takes the same view, and orders that people who commit serious crimes should be deported after serving their sentence. But there's another part of the law that says that can't happen:

He faced deportation but successfully invoked human rights legislation granting him the right to a "family life" in the UK. The father-of-two was due to be deported after he was taken into the custody of the UK Border Agency. But the Iraqi Kurd claimed it was too dangerous to return to his homeland and won the right to stay in Britain after a lengthy series of appeals at the Manchester Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.

Bear in mind that the accident happened, and the child died, in 2003. So this appeal process has been going on for six years. Mr Ibrahim is from Kurdistan. The Border Agency clearly believes that it is safe for him to return there. But Mr Ibrahim claims that under Human Rights legislation he has a "right to a family life" and should be allowed to stay. The court agreed with him. You have to wonder under what legislation the family of the dead girl can claim a right to a family life.

The Border Agency are considering an appeal, and Jack Straw says he is going to contact the Home Secretary to see if there is any way to overturn the decision. This is pointless. The Human Rights Act, which appears to grant rights to some people and not to others, is European law, and it over-rides UK law in every respect. Mr Ibrahim, and any like him, can stay as long as they wish, whatever crimes they commit, because they know they have the law on their side. Or, rather, their lawyers do. And who paid for six years of legal counsel for Mr Ibrahim? Oh yes, we did.

(As an additional point, I wonder what sentence I would have got if I, as a UK citizen with a blameless past and a clean licence, had been disqualified from driving, then decided to drive anyway, killed someone, and ran away? I suspect it would run to several years, and rightly so, although a life sentence would seem to me to be more appropriate. You know, 'life' as in 'until you die'.)

Just for the record:

Mr Ibrahim is now 37. Amy Houston would have been 18.

UPDATE: The Border Agency appealed, and lost. Ibrahim can stay, because he met and impregnated an English woman (twice) and now has a family in the UK. Shame about the family he tore apart. More info here.

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