Suspected Jamaican rapist banned from UK for a decade as police employ new tactic

Victory for new police unit Operation Nexus raises concerns at criminal cases being shifted to immigration

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The Independent Online

A suspected Jamaican sex-offender charged five times but never convicted for allegedly raping vulnerable women has been banned from Britain for a decade in a controversial new police tactic to target foreign criminals.

Lincoln Farquharson, 46, was sent back to Jamaica last month after a judge ruled that he posed a significant risk to women even though he was never convicted at any of the three trials he faced in 2007. He was last arrested and charged after an alleged rape at gunpoint in 2011, but prosecutors declined to press ahead with the case against him.

Instead his case was passed to a new police unit - Operation Nexus - which had him removed after 13 years in Britain and a protracted legal wrangle at an immigration tribunal in a case based on a 337-page police dossier.

Detectives had claimed that Mr Farquharson, who was also accused of being a drug user and domestic abuser, had specially selected his victims because of their vulnerability. He had claimed that the sex acts were consensual. Despite his removal from Britain after being held for 16 months in secure accommodation, it is not clear if he faces any restrictions in Jamaica.

The case represented an early victory for the unit which works with the Home Office to deport foreign nationals even though they may have committed no serious offences in London.

Police expect to refer 100 arrested suspects every week for possible removal and said that they had already identified 40 predatory sex offenders convicted overseas during the project.

“We will continue to work with our partners to identify and remove those foreign nationals who have avoided criminal prosecution but whose pattern of behaviour means they represent a risk to the British public,” said Det Supt Stuart Dark, of the Metropolitan Police.

However, civil rights groups have warned that difficult to solve crimes could instead be shifted to become immigration cases with a lower burden of proof required to remove them from the country.

And Mr Farquharson's solicitor Howard Cheng said: “It is a concern that the once famed idiom of 'innocent until proven guilty' no longer seems to apply, when the Home Office, with the assistance of the Police through Operation Nexus, are able to refuse an applicant's request for leave to remain in the UK on the basis of unproven criminal allegations.”

The 100-strong police unit was set up in November last year after intelligence showed that 27 per cent of those arrested in London were foreign nationals. Police and Border Agency officials were posted in every London custody centre to investigate the backgrounds of everyone arrested.

Foreign suspects found to have outstayed visas or had a history of offending in their home countries have been targeted for possible removal to prevent crimes being committed in the capital.

A Romanian arrested for shoplifting was shown to be wanted for more than 60 serious offences including robbery, grievous bodily harm and kidnapping in Eastern Europe.

The tactic has raised concerns because the standard of proof required to deport someone whom Home Secretary Theresa May considers is not “conducive to the public good” is less than that needed for criminal trials.

Rita Chadha, chief executive of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London which is monitoring the unit, said: “They are doing the Home Office's job by acting as immigration officers.”

The organisation representing immigration lawyers said there were concerns that people could be removed from the country without their cases being properly examined.

“If it's not properly tested then there will always be a concern,” said Alison Harvey, general secretary of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association. “There's a fine line between intelligence, rumour and guilt by association.”

Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: “The success of this operation proves that foreign nationals who continue to offend and pose a threat to the public will be arrested and removed from the UK.”