Reid admits that he misled MPs over release of offenders

John Reid faced severe embarassment over the foreign prisoner fiasco last night after admitting that a murderer, a rapist and a paedophile had been freed on bail just days after being arrested by police.

The day after he reassured MPs that four murderers and 23 other most-serious offenders were in custody, the Home Secretary was forced to apologise for misleading them.

In addition, he disclosed that another eight offenders ­ including four in the more serious category, which covers people convicted of violent crime ­ have also been bailed.

Compounding his discomfort, the bail hearings all took place since 5 May, when Tony Blair sacked Charles Clarke and replaced him with Mr Reid.

In a further embarrassing revelation last night, it emerged a senior immigration officer, under investigation over claims he offered to help a teenage asylum-seeker with her application in return for sex, was himself an illegal immigrant.

The Sun quoted an unnamed Whitehall source as saying: "He has a dubious immigration history but is apparently here legally now ... He arrived here legally from Ghana, and then overstayed." The Home Office refused to comment.

The department has been paralysed by a succession of crises since Mr Clarke first revealed last month that more than 1,000 foreign prisoners had been released without deportation hearings.

The new Home Secretary delivered a withering assessment of the department on Tuesday when he said the immigration service was "not fit for purpose". He even told the Home Affairs Select Committee that figures supplied by his officials sometimes had to be revised within 24 hours.

His words came back to haunt him yesterday as he apologised for mistakenly telling the committee that 27 of the most serious offenders had been detained.

In a letter to John Denham, the committee chairman, he admitted that a series of potentially dangerous offenders had been released on bail over the past 10 days. Mr Reid said: "To be put in a position where information was wrongly given to your committee ­ in spite of the caveats that I put around that information ­ is not acceptable and I apologise."

He said that he had instructed officials to "re-check" all facts provided to the hearing and announced that one senior civil servant had been removed from his current duties and "plans to change significantly the duties of another" had been speeded up. Mr Denham said last night: "It would appear that some civil servants knew 10 days ago the courts had started releasing serious offenders on bail, but didn't tell the Home Secretary."

Damian Green, the shadow Immigration minister, said: "When a home secretary warns that nobody can believe Home Office figures it shows a complete failure of administration. What is even more serious is that even more dangerous criminals are on our streets than we knew before." Aides said Mr Reid reacted with "utter fury" when he learnt he had been given the wrong information about the prisoners.

Once foreigners are issued with deportation papers, they have the automatic right to appeal with the possibility of bail. Home Office sources said last night application for bail had been opposed in all cases. Mr Reid has issued instructions that all further bail applications be contested "as vigorously as possible".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border