Chindamo judgement reawakens “foreign prisoners” issue

This afternoon a British judge accepted an appeal by Learco Chindamo, who as a 15-year-old delinquent killed a head-teacher who had come to the aid of another teenager whom his gang was attacking, against deportation once his release date comes, which is expected to be next year. (He was jailed for life, but such prisoners are usually released on licence after a certain time, usually 12 years but often more, for multiple or more dangerous murderers; sometimes life does mean life.) Chindamo is an Italian citizen, of part Filipino parentage, who was moved to this country when he was six years old. Until 2006, Chindamo had been held in an open prison, but was moved to a closed prison when the “foreign prisoner scandal” broke last year.

His case was apparently based on the fact that he was a European Union citizen who had lived in the UK for ten years by the time he committed the murder. His lawyers claim he is a reformed character and that his risk of re-offending is minimal. People who are offended by the decision raise the usual issue of what has happened to the Human Rights of victims. It should be noted that the idea of keeping him in jail for life, let alone executing him, are not on the table here.

As I wrote on the BBC PM blog, the problem with deporting the likes of Chindamo is that, if we were to deport all such people, it would mean expelling people who had lived in this country since childhood and gone astray here while living in parts of our cities where the temptation to join gangs is strong. They may not be British citizens, but they are very much British criminals. Why on earth should we expect other countries to take on our own criminal elements? If the country already has established criminal gangs, as Italy does, there is a strong likelihood that these deportees could help the gangs here and there forge links.

As so often, people who criticise the courts for considering a criminal’s human rights think only of theirs and not of other innocent parties - in this case, whoever we might dump our foreign criminals on - and let’s face it, many of these people don’t want to entertain the idea that Chindamo is a reformed character, even if he is. If he is not, and we dump him virtually penniless in Italy, where he has no family and does not speak the language, we need not think he will stay clean for very long. What about the Italians’ human rights? Or do they prefer to keep paying for his upkeep in jail?

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  • Thersites

    He hadn’t lived in the UK for ten years when he committed the murder. He had when he’d finished his sentence, of course, so the moral is send foreign prisoners back to their own countries to serve life sentences. On the one hand, if he’s likely to have the Great British Press following me everywhere I’d be very surprised that he wants to stay in the UK; on the other hand, if the Great British Press are right and he might kill someone at any moment and the most likely candidate is a member of the Great British Press who’s following him, then I’m all for keeping him here.