Thursday, August 14, 2008

Yadegary wins again

The Court of Appeal has dismissed the government's appeal against the High Court's decision to free Thomas Yadegary, with two of the three judges agreeing that prolonged imprisonment with no real prospect of release constituted "exceptional circumstances" under the law. Reading the decision [PDF] reveals just how exceptional and disproportionate Yadegary's imprisonment was: despite not having been charged, let alone convicted of a crime, he has served more time than most of those convicted of a violent offence. The average sentence for grievous assault or robbery is 24.1 months, and the average for indecent assault is 18.2. Yadegary spent 29 months in prison. Its worse when you remember that actual time served is usually between one-third and two-thirds of the sentence; once this is taken into account, Yadegary's imprisonment is up there with that of people convicted of kidnapping or attempted sexual violation. And of course its vastly higher than that handed out for any contempt of court, or for any other offence against the administration of justice.

What's really disturbing is that the government didn't think this was "exceptional", and that while of course they didn't mean for Yadegary to be imprisoned indefinitely, they nonetheless felt they should be allowed to. They even had the gall to argue that he wanted to be imprisoned, and that they wanted nothing more than to release him. Fortunately the judges treated these arguments with the utter contempt they deserved.

But what's most disturbing is that the government's new Immigration Bill includes a clause forbidding bail to any immigration detainee, and stating that the length of imprisonment cannot be considered an "exceptional circumstance" in deciding upon release. So, while disclaiming indefinite detention, they are seeking to put in place the very legal mechanisms to allow it in practice. Yet another example of how our "left-wing" government is simply two-faced on human rights.