Friday, January 20, 2012

Senior judge attacks UK border system after Lithuanian sex offender was able to enter the country

A senior judge has railed at the UK border system asking “do we let anyone in?” after a dangerous Lithuanian sex offender was able to enter the country and then rape a woman.

Lady Justice Hallett demanded to know if serious criminals were allowed to just “walk in to the country” after hearing the case of Victor Akulic.

Akulic raped a 40-year-old woman in 2010, just months after arriving, and then forced her to watch a recording of the horrific attack.

It emerged at his trial that he had committed a string of serious offences in Lithuania, including the rape of a seven-year-old girl, before arriving in the UK. However his previous offences did not show up when he entered Britain because of the poor information exchange between some EU countries.

Immigration officials here are reliant on individuals owning up to previous offences themselves or their home nation passing on details to the police.

But despite her concerns, Lady Justice Hallett reduced Akulic’s life sentence to an indeterminate sentence for public protection.

Hearing the appeal, the judge asked Akulic's barrister, Catherine Purnell, how he was allowed to enter the UK with such a serious conviction to his name. She said: "He comes into this country with a conviction for raping a child. Do we let in just anyone, even if they have such a serious conviction?"

When Ms Purnell said Akulic is a Lithuanian national and Lithuania is now part of the European Union, Lady Justice Hallett retorted: "I appreciate that, but do we have to take in anybody, even if they have a conviction for raping a child."

Ms Purnell replied: "I'm afraid I don't know about that; it may be that if the authorities had known about that then something may have been done earlier. "I do know it was very difficult for the prosecuting authorities to find out details of the offence."

Akulic was jailed for life, with a minimum of eight and a half years, at Maidstone Crown Court in February last year, after being convicted of rape, assault and intimidation of a woman.

Akulic, 44, of Alexander Road, Sheerness, raped a woman in August 2010 and subjected her to three vicious assaults – including one in which he knocked her to the ground and stamped on her head – before trying to intimidate her following his arrest.

The court heard he amassed a number of previous convictions in his native country before he came to the UK in early 2010. In 1992, in Lithuania, he was convicted of assault causing grievous bodily harm, for which he received a seven-year jail term, and in 1997 he was handed a five-year jail term for another offence – which was unrecorded. He was jailed for eight years in March 2001 for raping a seven-year-old girl and was released in February 2009.

Ms Purnell accepted Akulic was a "dangerous offender", but the Appeal Court replaced his life sentence with less draconian imprisonment for public protection and reduced his minimum term to seven years, after which it will be a Parole Board decision as to whether he can be released.

However, Ms Purnell said Akulic is in the process of applying for a transfer to a prison in Lithuania, and told the court: "Hopefully he will not be a burden on the taxpayer too much longer."


Judge attacks immigration 'merry-go-round' that allowed Pakistani man to make 16 applications to stay in Britain

A senior judge today condemned the immigration 'merry-go-round' that allowed an asylum seeker to stay in Britain for a decade.

The Pakistani national was allowed to make a staggering 16 appeals or new applications despite being rejected at every turn, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of at least £250,000.

Lord Justice Ward said the 'depressing story' was typical of asylum cases in which 'endless fresh claims' were allowed to 'clog up' the system. He said: 'This is another of those frustrating appeals which characterise - and, some may even think, disfigure - certain aspects of the work in the immigration field.

'Here we have one of those whirligig cases where an asylum seeker goes up and down on the merry-go-round leaving one wondering when the music will ever stop. 'It is a typical case where asylum was refused years ago but endless fresh claims clog the process of removal.'

The Court of Appeal judge rejected the man's latest appeal and insisted he should now be returned to Pakistan. He concluded: 'I would therefore dismiss this appeal. It is time the music stopped and the merry-go-round stops turning. 'His claim for judicial review is now dismissed. Enough of the whirligig. The Secretary of State is now entitled to take steps to remove him.'

The 38-year-old man, whose identity is hidden by the court, first arrived in Britain in August 1998, and claimed asylum one month later. His claim was rejected by the Home Secretary two years later after an official rejected documents he presented as evidence as 'false' and found they 'cast doubt on his credibility'.

The man claimed he was a member of a religious minority in Pakistan and faced persecution in his home country.

He appealed to a tribunal and lost and in November 2001 he was due to be deported - but this was stopped after he claimed it would breach his 'human rights'.

At this point, Lord Justice Ward said 'the merry-go-round had started'. The new application was refused in December 2001. The man appealed, and lost his case before an official adjudicator in 2004.

Recounting these events, LJ Ward commented: 'Notwithstanding that setback, the carousel continued to go round and round, because, nothing daunted, the appellant had submitted a fresh claim.' The new claim was rejected on October 1, 2004, but new claims were made two weeks later, and again in January, May and December of the following year. He was arrested in February 2006, but made another new claim, which was rejected by the Home Office in March 2006. But according to the judge, the 'whirligig kept turning.'

On March 13, 2006, the applicant made a new claim for judicial review of the decision to remove him, which the High Court approved in July 2008. Lord Justice Ward said: 'This was to all intents and purposes a new challenge, another ride on the roundabout. On my count, this was the 15th submission of a fresh claim.'

The claim for judicial review was dismissed, but the case then went before the Court of Appeal, leading to a hearing in July this year, and yesterday's written ruling.

Around £100million is spent annually on legal aid for asylum seekers, but this does not include the cost of courts and tribunal system hearing the cases or the cost to the government of fighting the cases and processing the paperwork.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has pledged to end abuses of the legal aid system by failed asylum seekers.


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