Champagne corks must have been popping in the offices of a number of law firms this week. The celebratory mood was epitomised perhaps by the first three words of a tweet from one law firm in the small hours of Wednesday. The three words in question were: ‘What a result.’
It was the kind of reaction you would expect from, say, the scientists responsible for the vaccine breakthroughs.
In fact, the lawyer, whose firm is based in the heart of London’s legal establishment, had just succeeded in obtaining an injunction to prevent ‘our Jamaican client’ being kicked out of the country.
Priti Patel, pictured, was disappointed this week after ‘lefty lawyers’ foiled her attempts to deport a group of Jamaican criminals on a specially-chartered aircraft
His ‘client’, whose precise offence is not known, was among the band of criminals — including murderers, rapists and drug dealers — removed from a deportation flight to the Caribbean following last-minute legal challenges. Surely no one apart from the ‘Leftie lawyers’ (Home Secretary Priti Patel’s description) making a handsome living out this kind of work and the individuals they represented on that plane would regard what happened as a victory.
The lawyer’s tweet in full read: ‘What a result, fresh reps [representations] submitted for our Jamaican client.
‘Reps submitted at 23.30 and then an out of hours injunction granted at 00.45. Close call but was taken off the flight.’
It was posted under the hashtag #Jamaica 50 — a reference to the fact that only 13 criminals from the original list of 57 were on board the Home Office charter plane which took off from Stansted Airport.
At least the lawyer himself was acting pro bono — for free. And his client — a Jamaican national and father of five who served time for ‘substance abuse’ — admittedly may not have been the most dangerous individual on the plane. The lawyer would not disclose the offence but says he was not a ‘drug dealer’ when we contacted him yesterday.
‘He served his sentence and has rehabilitated himself and became a family man,’ he said. ‘He has a British wife and kids here in the UK.’ Nevertheless, at a time of rising crime in an increasingly lawless Britain, many will find his tweet and the gleeful outpourings on social media of other lawyers at the heart of this controversy distasteful.
The lawyer who posted that late-night tweet did also concede that ‘there were some people on the flight who had been convicted of heinous crimes, which you cannot condone’.
Among the criminals Home Secretary Priti Patel sought to deport was Jermaine Stewart from Liverpool who was jailed in 2014 for raping a woman who fell asleep on his sofa
But you could be forgiven for thinking they were all victims if you read some of their posts; victims of modern slavery — the defence now being used by drug dealers who claim they are being or have been exploited or trafficked by criminal gangs; victims of an authoritarian state which is breaking up families by kicking fathers out of the country and victims of a brutal policy that bears comparison with the Windrush scandal.
Take this from a barrister at a London chambers: ‘My client came to the UK aged 11 and is a victim of trafficking… his human rights claim has never been fully considered.’
Or this from a lawyer at a firm of solicitors: ‘Today many kids woke up not knowing if they’ll ever see their dads again and wondering why no one listens. Grateful that many got off the plane, but it was a brutal night. Very lucky to work with brilliant counsel team on this.’
On Tuesday afternoon, a charity that works closely with law firms even tweeted an ‘urgent callout’ for solicitors willing to challenge deportations on the basis that clients were unfit to fly because of factors such as ‘high blood pressure’.
Among those who were eventually given a reprieve, in case you were wondering, were Jermaine Stewart, from Liverpool, who was jailed for six years in 2014 for raping a woman who fell asleep on his sofa, and drug dealer Michael White — sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in 2003 — who, along with an accomplice, shot and killed a man they believed owed them money.
One of the biggest players in this legal field represented a number of people on the deportation flight (not Stewart or White) — one assumes through legal aid, although this cannot be confirmed.
The firm has received £55 million in legal aid from the British taxpayer in just three years — nearly £20 million for immigration cases. Its legal ‘successes’ include preventing the deportation of 14 serious offenders to Jamaica back in February.
This company is now Britain’s largest provider of legal aid services, employing 700 staff —‘legal practitioners representing clients in matters close to Labour’s heart’.
The firm denies being ‘Leftie lawyers’. ‘We are not politically motivated,’ a statement on the company website insists.
But staff regularly attend Labour Party events where their lawyers have been photographed with Jeremy Corbyn, ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell, and MPs David Lammy, Yvette Cooper, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth and Unite union boss ‘Red’ Len McCluskey.
In the past, staff have travelled to Calais and offered support to refugees hoping to reach Britain. Critics say the visits put the firm in pole position to represent those same migrants who may need help to remain in the UK if they successfully cross the Channel; the allegation, to be precise, is that they were drumming up business.
Campaigners have compared the Home Office’s actions to the Empire Windrush scandal which saw people wrongly deported to the Caribbean because they could not prove they had a right to remain in the UK despite living in the country for up to 50 years
Again, the firm addresses this criticism on its website: ‘Our work in Calais was entirely proper,’ the statement says. ‘In 2016 we sought to provide advice and support to unaccompanied children who were living in squalid conditions in the Calais migrant camp.
‘In two subsequent journeys to Calais in 2018 a small group of our employees travelled to help a charity called Refuge Community Kitchen. We certainly did not go to Calais to identify cases. We do not tout for work.’
It is understood that 36 Jamaican criminals were notified five days before the flight they would be deported and at that stage none had outstanding legal barriers to removal.
But a large number then submitted legal challenges. New claims included human rights appeals and allegations that criminals had been victims of slavery.
One was pulled off the flight just minutes before departure after his lawyers persuaded a judge to intervene.
Home Office sources claimed that the incident highlighted the ‘opportunistic’ tactics deployed by immigration lawyers.
Would anyone, apart from the lawyers themselves, disagree?
Additional reporting: Tim Stewart
Windrush victim daughter’s warns against linking scandal to deportation of Jamaican killers and rapists
By Emine Sinmaz and David Barrett for the Daily Mail
The daughter of a Windrush victim insisted last night that the scandal should not be linked to the deportation of Jamaican killers and rapists.
Samantha Barnes-Garner, whose elderly father Clayton Barnes was wrongly targeted by the Home Office, said the two issues were ‘completely different’.
The dance teacher, 50, insisted it was ‘absolutely’ right for the Government to deport criminals to their home countries.
Clayton Barnes, who was wrongly targeted by the Home Office, pictured, had spent 50 years living in Britain
His daughter, Samantha Barnes-Garner, pictured, said it was wrong to conflate her father’s case with those of the criminals due for deportation this week
Her comments came after Home Secretary Priti Patel said in yesterday’s Daily Mail that it was ‘deeply offensive’ for Labour MPs and celebrities to ‘conflate’ the Windrush scandal with a charter flight this week that removed 13 Jamaican criminals.
Mr Barnes, now 84, was left stranded in Jamaica despite working in Britain for more than half a century. ‘It’s a completely different issue, the two of them shouldn’t be connected by no means,’ added Mrs Barnes-Garner.
‘In my father’s case he was not allowed back in the country for no apparent reason, even though he’d been here since 1959.
‘He had done all of his work here and he didn’t commit any crimes – he paid his taxes and he worked.’
Mr Barnes, a retired roofer from Milton Keynes, was left trapped in Jamaica after going there in 2010 to renovate his house, which had been damaged in a hurricane.
When he tried to fly back to the UK at Christmas in 2013, he was told his indefinite leave to remain was invalid.
Mr Barnes arrived in Britain in 1959 and wanted to split his retirement between the UK and Jamaica
The grandfather-of-five said at the time: ‘I feel terrible, like I am being treated as a criminal. I came here to fix up the house so I could split my retirement between Jamaica and England but now I’m told I can’t go back. It is like I have been deported.
‘England was my home, I lived there, worked there, married there and had children there. I worked hard, paid my taxes and have no criminal record. Why can’t I come back?’
The Home Office error meant that in 2018 Mr Barnes was unable to access NHS care for a lung problem – even though he had paid taxes in this country for 51 years. After his case was reported by the Mail in April 2018, he was granted a biometric residence permit.
Yesterday Miss Patel blasted Labour MPs and celebrities such as supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Thandie Newton who signed an open letter calling for the Jamaica deportation flight to be stopped and linking it with Windrush.
Yesterday Miss Patel blasted Labour MPs and celebrities such as supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Thandie Newton who signed an open letter calling for the Jamaica deportation flight to be stopped and linking it with Windrush
She said: ‘To see ill-informed Labour politicians and do-gooding celebrities attempting to conflate the victims of Windrush with these vile criminals set for deportation is not only misjudged and upsetting but deeply offensive.’
The Windrush scandal, which began to emerge in 2017, saw the Home Office wrongly target people for removal after changes in immigration policy. They were entirely innocent of any crime. The Jamaican nationals scheduled for deportation on Wednesday’s Home Office charter flight had been convicted of offences including murder and rape.
Only 13 deportations went ahead after lawyers for another 23 succeeded in removing them from the passenger list.
These stars are insulting the Windrush Generation: CALVIN ROBINSON slams celebrities invoking the scandal to stop child rapists and murderers being deported
On the mantelpiece in my grandparents’ sitting room when I was growing up, there was a model of the Empire Windrush, the vessel that brought 500 people from the Caribbean to Britain in 1948.
Its arrival at Tilbury Docks marked the start of a wave of Caribbean immigration here that lasted until 1971.
My father’s parents were among nearly half a million people who came in the ensuing years – the so-called Windrush Generation.
Grandma was so proud of that little model. It symbolised a new life for her and her family. They were good, hard-working people who instilled their work ethic in my Dad and then in me. I owe them such a lot.
Calvin Robinson, pictured, said when he was growing up there was a model of the Empire Windrush on the mantelpiece of his grandparent’s sitting room
Sadly, in 2017, details began to emerge of a scandal in which hundreds of innocent Commonwealth citizens who were entitled to live and work here – many of them members of the Windrush Generation – had been wrongly detained by the Home Office, deported and denied legal representation.
These were people, like my grandparents, who made an enormous contribution to our country, taking jobs in the NHS and other sectors that were suffering in the acute labour shortages of the post-war years.
Their treatment was, as the Home Secretary Priti Patel said this week, ‘a stain on our country’s history’ and shamed successive governments who presided over a flawed immigration system.
So it makes my blood absolutely boil when I hear self-serving, virtue-signalling celebrities invoking the Windrush scandal in an attempt to stop the deportation of criminals, including child rapists and murderers.
As the Mail has reported this week, 82 leading figures from the black community were signatories to an open letter of demands sent to six airlines, protesting against the deportation of 50 Jamaican criminals back to the Caribbean. Supermodel Naomi Campbell, actress Naomie Harris, and TV historian David Olusoga were among those who, by signing the letter, in my view, have shamelessly and offensively linked innocent Windrush pioneers who have every right to be in Britain with individuals convicted of horrendous crimes.
One of the men scheduled for deportation, Michael Antonio White, is a convicted murderer who shot his victim six times at close range after a drug deal went wrong.
And one raped a drunken woman who was asleep on a sofa.
Not one of them is a British citizen – all were born in Jamaica. Yet on Wednesday, in the wake of the celebrity outcry, they were among 23 criminals taken off the passenger list, pending more legal arguments.
I am disgusted that they could be named in the same breath as the Windrush Generation. Yet the deluded, pretentious signatories couldn’t help themselves: ‘Windrush Generation members or Windrush descendants’ might face deportation, they bleated.
It is an outrageous claim and besmirches the legacy of my grandparents and thousands like them to score a cheap political point.
But in making it, they have backed themselves into a ludicrous position in which they are in effect pleading for vicious criminals to receive special treatment. In doing so they are undermining the very cause they profess to support and are making it harder for ordinary people to stand up to real racism.
Labour politicians have been no less quick to drag Windrush into the debate. The shadow minister for immigration Holly Lynch mentioned the ship ten times in one question, as she too implied that some of the criminals could be ‘affected by the wider injustices that impacted the victims of the Windrush scandal’.
Who in their right mind would not want their country to be rid of murderous thugs? We have every right to protect ourselves and our children. What nobody has any right to do is traduce the memory of Windrush pioneers like my grandparents who brought so much good to Britain.
- Calvin Robinson is a former teacher and now governor of a London state school.