Clarke under pressure for treatment of Chilean refugee

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Indy Politics

The former home secretary Charles Clarke has been heavily criticised by a judge over the way a Chilean refugee was detained for deportation by the Home Office.

Ernesto Leal was 13 when he arrived in Britain in 1977 as a refugee from the Pinochet regime. He and his four siblings were brought up in Scotland and given indefinite leave to remain. Several years ago Mr Leal was involved in a pub fight that resulted in him serving an 18-month sentence in an open prison.

More than 12 months after his release he was caught up in the Home Office trawl for more than 1,000 foreign nationals who had been convicted of offences but not considered for deportation upon release.

Mr Leal's plight attracted attention from politicians and civil rights campaigners angered by attempts to throw him out of the country. After an early day motion signed by 56 MPs, Mr Leal, 41, won an asylum and immigration tribunal appeal against deportation.

Judge Peter Petherbridge, who presided over the appeal, said: "We have to express our revulsion at the manner in which the Secretary of State went about detaining the appellant. However, meritorious the desire to deport someone, the manner in which it is carried out must be in line with acceptable standards."

The tribunal was told that some 30 immigration and police officers made their way into Mr Leal's flat while he was out and caused a considerable amount of damage while they waited for him to return. Mr Leal was then taken to the high security Belmarsh prison.

The tribunal found no evidence to suggest Mr Leal was likely to reoffend.

Mr Leal said yesterday: "There are many cases like mine happening in the UK."

Following confirmation the Home Office is not to appeal, Peter Wishart, the SNP MP who tabled the early day motion, said: "There is no doubt the proposed deportation was motivated by the vindictive Home Office, desperate to assuage public opinion."