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Last Updated: Monday, 15 May 2006, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Foreign murderer still at large
Prison bars
The foreigners should have been considered for deportation
One murderer and eight rapists or child sex offenders are among the freed foreign prisoners still at large, Home Secretary John Reid has revealed.

They are among 1,023 foreign nationals who were freed from prison without being considered for deportation.

In a written statement to the Commons, Mr Reid revised the number of serious offenders freed to 179, from 150.

He disclosed 19 of those had committed crimes "involving violence or a sexual element" after being freed from prison.

1,023 released without being considered for deportation
179 now identified as "serious" offenders, including 35 guilty of murder, manslaughter, rape or child sex offences
57 of the serious offenders have reoffended since their release
19 have committed crimes involving violence or a "sexual element" since their release

In total, 57 of the 179 serious offenders had committed further crimes since their release, said Mr Reid.

The statement said all of the 1023 had now been assessed and consideration of the case for deportation had started in 880 cases.

There has been an initial decision to deport in 649 of these. In total 98 of the 179 serious offenders had yet to be found.

He said he was asking why it had been decided that two of the most serious offenders should not be deported.

Automatic deportation

Mr Reid said: "Progress continues to be made in the operation to deal with the released foreign prisoners. The operation is prioritising the serious cases first."

Three of the four murderers on the released prisoners' list were now within the government's "control", he said.

In giving the latest figures, Mr Reid said he had redefined serious offences as those involving violence, a sexual element or armed robbery.

And he promised to give a detailed breakdown of the cases by parliamentary constituency or by the prison from which they were released.

In the Commons, shadow home secretary David Davis asked Mr Reid when he would meet the prime minister's promise to deport any foreign national serving a prison sentence automatically.

Conservative Mr Davis suggested Tony Blair had engaged in "overblown rhetoric", not reality.

'Historic problems'

Mr Reid said he wanted to make sure any foreign national serving a "significant" jail term would be automatically deported.

But after five days in his new job he could not give any timings.

He said he also planned to return to Parliament shortly to set out his view of the problems facing the Home Office, some of which had existed for "decades".

Tory frontbencher Damian Green claimed government targets for removing failed asylum seekers had caused the deportation problem, citing evidence from BBC Panorama.

He asked ministers: "Will you admit that chasing one narrow target means that backlogs build up and dangerous criminals are let out on the streets because meeting the PM's target became more important than running an efficient, firm and fair immigration system?"

Immigration Minister Tony McNulty denied the charge.

He said immigration officials had concentrated on reaching a "tipping point" where the number of asylum removals outweighed the amount of new asylum claims.

But pursuing the target had not been done at the "exclusion of everything else", he told MPs.


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