£17,000 for man in jail too long


An illegal immigrant who arrived in the UK as a stowaway and then committed some 20 offences has thanked a judge after being awarded more than £17,000 compensation for being falsely imprisoned by Home Office officials for four months.

Judge Stephen Stewart QC concluded that 28-year-old Joseph Mjemer - who had used at least five aliases and claimed to be from four different countries - should be freed and paid damages by the Home Office for "loss of liberty".

He ruled that Mjemer, who took legal action after being granted legal aid, should be awarded £17,360 following a hearing at the High Court in London.

Mjemer, who sat in court behind lawyers, told him: "Thank you very much."

Lawyers for Mjemer had successfully argued that he was unlawfully held between January and May this year, while immigration officials tried to establish where he came from so they could deport him.

Mjemer also argued that he had suffered psychiatric harm as a result of being illegally detained.

But the judge said there was no evidence of "substantial deterioration" during the period of unlawful detention and rejected a claim for "aggravated damages".

The court heard that Mjemer had been taken into Home Office "administrative custody" in 2007 - after arriving in the UK in 2003 and committing a variety of crimes - because officials feared he would abscond if freed.

The judge ruled that the detention had been lawful for most of that period - but it had been illegal between January and May 2011 because attempts to establish Mjemer's nationality had faltered and there had been no realistic prospect of deportation.

Judge Stewart said he thought there was a low to moderate risk of Mjemer being violent, a moderate risk of him reoffending and moderate to high risk of him absconding.

He was told that Mjemer arrived in the UK on a ship in 2003 and claimed asylum.

Over the following three years, Mjemer was convicted of more than 20 offences - including property damage, dangerous driving and attempting to obtain property by deception - and given a number of jail terms before being taken into "administrative custody", the court heard.

Mjemer had also used at least five aliases and variously claimed to be British, Italian, Moroccan, Algerian and stateless, said the judge.

Judge Stewart ruled that Mjemer had been unlawfully held following a High Court hearing in London in May.

He announced the size of the damages award following a further assessment hearing at the High Court in London yesterday.

Following the May hearing, lawyers told the judge that Mjemer would be freed, fitted with a monitoring tag, have to live at an address in West Drayton, west London, and be made to report regularly to a police station while Home Office investigations into his country of origin continued.