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Compensating Victims of Official Mistreatment Marks a Civilised Society

It is the mark of a civilised society that those mistreated by officialdom are entitled to compensation – however undeserving some might believe them to be. In one case exactly on point, a violent criminal from Somalia was awarded almost £80,000 in damages from the Home Office after he was unlawfully detained.

The 39-year-old man, who arrived in Britain at the age of 17 after suffering appalling torture in his homeland, had committed a total of 30 criminal offences in this country and had served more than a dozen custodial sentences. His leave to remain in the UK had long expired and the Home Office ultimately issued a deportation order.

The European Court of Human Rights, however, subsequently directed the UK not to remove him from the country due to concerns about unsafe conditions in Somalia. He was nevertheless kept in immigration detention for three periods totalling 445 days. After lawyers launched proceedings on the man’s behalf, the Home Office ultimately conceded that there had, during those periods, been no prospect of successfully deporting him and that his detention was thus unlawful.

In awarding him damages of £78,500, the High Court noted that it was unsurprising that the Home Office might wish to deport such a violent and prolific offender. Officials had, however, been aware of clear independent evidence that he had suffered torture of unimaginable barbarity in his homeland. There were no exceptional circumstances that justified his continued detention.

The Court acknowledged that some might question why a foreign citizen who had thoroughly abused the UK’s hospitality should be entitled to any compensation. It noted, however, that there were few principles more important in a civilised society than that no one should be deprived of their liberty without lawful authority. He was not the most wicked of men and was entitled to justice like anyone else.

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