Govt blames ‘interpretation’ for human rights ruling

The government has again been forced to defend the Human Rights Act after immigration judges ruled the killer of head teacher Phillip Lawrence will not be deported.

An immigration and asylum tribunal said deporting Italian-born Learco Chindamo would deprive him of his right to a family life. The 26-year-old’s parents have both settled in the UK.

Chindamo was handed a life sentence for the murder of Mr Lawrence in 1995. He will complete his minimum 12 year sentence next year and it has now emerged the government has been working to deport him if the Parole Board approve his release.

Mr Lawrence was killed outside his school in Maide Vale in north London while protecting a 13-year-old pupil from a gang, which included Chindamo.

Home Office minister Tony McNulty has insisted the latest decision, which has been deplored by Mr Lawrence’s widow Frances, did not mark a failure of the Human Rights Act but a flawed interpretation.

Mr McNulty said: “I don’t think it’s actually the act that’s at fault here. It’s like a whole range of these things it’s the interpretation of the act.

“And we’re very clear that with rights come responsibilities and I would think that given the serious and heinous nature of this crime, the individual has forfeited any right to domicile in the UK.

“And I think most people would agree with that, and that’s why we’ll be asking the tribunal to look again.”

The Home Office has already expressed its disappointment at the ruling and confirmed it will launch an appeal.

“We believe that foreign prisoners who have committed serious crimes should face automatic deportation from the UK at the end of their sentence,” a department spokeswoman said.

The home secretary can only deport prisoners to other EU countries if they pose a “fundamental threat to the interests of society”.

Chindamo’s lawyer said his client was a reformed man and deportation would be “disproportionate”. In a statement, Chindamo said he hoped the decision would not cause unnecessary grief to Mrs Lawrence.

The head teacher’s widow, however, said she was “devastated and demoralised” by the decision.

In a statement she said: “I’m unutterably depressed that the Human Rights Act has failed to encompass the rights of my family to lead a safe, secure and happy life.

“I feel that I have always been a staunch advocate of the Human Rights Act but there is a missing term in it. It must encompass some responsibility.

“This isn’t just about me and my family. I am not solely thinking of me. I may be a mother but I am a human being as well. I feel I can’t fight any more. I feel I can’t survive this.”

Justice secretary Jack Straw confirmed he would meet with Mrs Lawrence this afternoon as part of the government’s attempt to deport Chindamo.

The Conservatives, who had said they would replace the Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights, blamed the decision on the legislation.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said: “It is a stark demonstration of the clumsy incompetence of this government’s human rights legislation that we are unable to send a proven killer back to his own country, especially when that country is in the EU.”

Alan Gordon, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the ruling was “absolute madness”.

Mr Gordon said: “The fact that he may be paroled and back on our streets as early as next year is in itself disgusting. Life should mean life.

“What about the human rights of Philip Lawrence, robbed of his life by a thoughtless knife attack or the human rights of Mr Lawrence’s wife and children, deprived of a loving husband and father?”