Telegraph wrong again on foreign deportation

8 September 2011 by

In a recent speech about the August riots, the Prime Minister bemoaned the “twisting and misrepresenting of human rights”. Unfortunately, this practice is common in the press, sometimes by accident but often by design.

One common accusation against the Human Rights Act is that it prevents the state deporting some foreign criminals. This is sometimes true; for example, the state cannot deport anyone if to do so would put them at a real risk of being tortured. But other law can be “to blame” too for preventing deportation of criminals, as was the case with Learco Chindamo, the killer of head teacher Philip Lawrence. This has not prevented the Daily Telegraph from again using his case as an example of human rights gone wrong.

I have posted on this topic before. And, if you don’t believe me, the head of the Court of Appeal Lord Neuberger even used a previous Telegraph report in a speech as an example of inaccurate reporting “which may tempt some into thinking that it is hardly worth maintaining the State’s inability to deny you a fair trial, to kill or torture you, and to preclude you enjoying freedom of expression“. He said:

My second example relates to the reporting of the issue of the attempted deportation of Learco Chindamo, who killed Philip Lawrence from the UK. He could not be deported, and, for some parts of the press, this was entirely the fault of Article 8 of the European Convention. Although the Tribunal which made the initial deportation ruling mentioned Article 8, the reason why he could not be deported had however nothing whatsoever to do with Article 8, but was based on the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006. (So I suppose it was the fault of Brussels or Luxemburg, but not Strasbourg.)

There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of human rights law. But the effect of misreporting of human rights is insidious. As Lord Neuberger put it:

Persuasion should be based on truth rather than propaganda. It is one thing to disagree with a judgment, to disagree with a law and to campaign to change the law, but it is another thing to misstate what was said in a judgment, or to misstate the law.

If misreporting of the law bothers you, see this excellent post on the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants blog on how to go about complaining (or, as they put it, “making a fuss about media tripe”).

Update, 8 Sep 2011 – Aidan O’Neill QC has followed up this post with one on the new Eutopia Law blog: Expelling EU Nationals: It’s EU Law, not the HRA. He concludes:

In sum, things are not as unreservedly in favour of the interest of the convicted criminal as the Daily Telegraph might have us believe. The application of the proportionality test does expressly require a weighing up of the rights of the individual against the interests of the wider community. And sometimes, even at a European level, those general interests win.

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1 comment;


  1. David Mitchell says:

    In addition to the procedures recommended by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants complaints regarding inaccurate reporting should be logged with The Media Standards Trust (http://mediastandardstrust.org/). This is especially pertinent in the case of The Daily / Sunday Express and Daily / Sunday Star who are beyond the (in any event, limited) reach of PCC. Unsurprisingly, the Express is still running with the Cameron speech story in today’s leader (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/269827/Our-human-rights-regime-has-to-be-changed-now)

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