The Sun are OUTRAGED this morning because an “American strangler”, as they call him, has been deported from the USA to this country after serving nearly 40 years in a New York state prison for strangling his girlfriend when he was 16 (she was 14). I immediately suspected that the man in question was British, and was right; he is, however, also an American, which is an usual feature of such cases. Dempsey Hawkins, born in 1959 in London to a British mother and American father, was first eligible for parole in 2000, but it was denied every time (every two years) until last year, when deportation to the UK was made a condition of his release. He was met by his cousin, a professor he had never met who wished to remain anonymous when interviewed for the New York Times article, but appears not to be subject to any supervision. According to the Sun, he now lives in Cambridge and works at a Mexican restaurant.
It’s rather ironic that the Sun has made a scandal out of his release and deportation. When the foreign criminals are in this country, it wants them thrown out, as they demonstrated last July with this story about “more than 6,000 foreign criminals” “freely roaming the streets”, sometimes more than five years since release from prison, while supposedly “waiting to be kicked out”. The same article protests about criminals who are EU nationals being allowed to remain in the country despite a prisoner transfer agreement; one of the people they are angry about is Learco Chindamo, an Italian national who killed a headteacher in London at the age of 15. Automatically deporting any foreign national found guilty of a crime on release from prison was never British practice until the Daily Mail manufactured the “foreign criminals” scandal in 2007, after which people who had served their sentences long ago, sometimes for minor crimes such as assault, were rounded up for deportation; some were spared, after their local communities fought for their release.
The press does not consider the welfare of people in the countries of origin when clamouring for the deportation of foreign criminals; why would they expect the Americans (or any foreign country) to care about our welfare? In any case, I do not think he can be much of a threat; he committed the crime when he was 16, and he is now 57, and if he had a record of violence while in prison, he would not have been considered for release, in the US or anywhere else, so we should not assume that he is already looking for someone else to strangle. If he had done this in the UK, he would have been released (albeit with supervision) 20 years ago at least, most likely with some protest from the victim’s family, but released all the same. There is much more of a belief in people’s ability to change for the better in this country, especially when they committed a crime as a juvenile, but much as we don’t allow foreign nationals with serious criminal records to remain here, regardless of family connections, we have to accept that British ones will be sent back here.
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