Saturday, December 18, 2010

More Than Rough Justice

Skidmore style.

I am a law-abiding citizen. Always have been – mostly. Better get that one out of the way first.

This case raises some interesting scenarios.

“A father whose daughter was knocked down and killed by a failed Iraqi asylum seeker slammed British justice today after the asylum seeker was allowed to permanently stay in the UK.

Banned driver Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, 33, left Amy Houston, 12, to die under the wheels of his Rover car and fled the scene following the accident.

But the Iraqi Kurd was today told he can stay in Britain after judges said deporting the dad of two would breach HIS human rights following a seven-year legal battle.

They ruled that as Ibrahim has married an English woman and had two children since the 2003 accident, his right to family life under the Human Rights Act meant he must stay in the UK — despite having a string of criminal convictions.

Today Amy's furious dad Paul slammed the decision as "perverse" and a "joke".

Engineer Paul, 41, from Darwen, Lancs, said: "What do you have to do to be deported? For seven years he has fought it and used every trick in the book to stay in the UK.

I'm really furious. I don't understand how he can be allowed to stay here after killing my daughter. He shouldn't be allowed to stay.

It shows what a sad state of affairs the country is in.

I've been battling for justice on my own for years now and what for? It has been for nothing. This is a perversity of our society. The whole country should be disgusted.

Basically what the judges are saying is that it doesn't matter how you act when you come here. You can kill, break the laws of the land but so long as you have a child when in the UK you can stay.

I work hard, play by the rules, pay my taxes and this is how I get treated. What does that say about politicians, our leaders and the legal system? It's a joke."

Judges sitting at the Upper Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber in Manchester rejected a final appeal by the UK Border Agency to have Ibrahim deported.

Ibrahim, who has convictions for drugs possession, burglary, harassment, criminal damage and theft along with a string of driving convictions, killed Amy in November 2003 after running off from the scene of the accident while she was stuck under the wheels of his car.

She was rushed to hospital but her dad was forced to turn off her life support machine after doctors told him she would never recover.

Since then Paul has campaigned for Ibrahim to be kicked out the country and begged judges at a recent deportation hearing to bring "my seven years of hell to an end" by sending the monster back to Iraq.

He added: "All he is is a criminal. He was before he killed Amy and he will continue to be one.

The Human Rights Act is for everybody, not just asylum seekers and terrorists. It just seems to be used to allow people to get what they want.

He says if he was deported he would be deprived of his right to a family life?

The only person deprived of a family life is me. Amy was my only family. He took that from me."

In a final plea to two senior immigration judges, Paul, who is divorced from Amy's mother, wrote: "Amy was my only child... due to medical reasons I am unable to have any more children.

Amy was and is my family, so my point is, it is my right to a family life that has been deprived and not Mr Ibrahim's.”

"Mr Ibrahim claims to be a family man but if it's your actions that define who you are and not your words, then offences for possession of drugs, burglary, harassment, damage to property and theft as well as driving convictions and my daughter's death, you could argue that Mr Ibrahim is a negative influence as a role model as a father.

"I cannot understand by letting Mr Ibrahim remain in the UK what benefits he could bring to society.

"Had he shown some real remorse for what he had done and not committed any more crimes, I could accept that this was just an accident.

"On the evening of November 23 2003 Mr Ibrahim struck Amy, he didn't kill her outright, she was still conscious.

"She was fully aware what was happening around her even though she had the full weight of the engine block of the car on top of her, she was crying because she was frightened and in a lot of pain ... he could have at least tried to help.

"Amy suffered for six hours before the doctors advised me to switch off the life support machine ... it was highly unlikely she would survive and if she was to live would be a 'cabbage'.

"The image of Amy taking her final breath, dying a foot away from me as I sat by her bedside holding her hand praying for a miracle will stay with me till the day I die.

"If the Human Rights Act is about fairness, then it must have balance. What about Amy's right to life under the act?

"Today you have the power to bring my seven years of hell to an end; you can bring closure and justice.

"You can stop Mr Ibrahim from destroying anybody else's life as he destroyed mine but most of all you can bring balance to the Human Rights Act.

"You can show the world that this act is not just for criminals, failed asylum seekers and terrorists but for everybody in society because without balance there is no justice."

Lawyers for Ibrahim argued that his human rights would be impinged if he was sent back to Iraq.”

On the surface, it is very difficult not to be sympathetic with the family of this little girl. I am sympathetic. But, things are not as easy or as straight-forward in this case – as in life.

My first reaction was to consider this famous case:

Human nature being what it is, the idea of revenge against someone who has decimated your family is understandable. Sympathy for the victims of crime is understandable. Amy's Dad's frustrations and anger is understandable. His desire for some sort of retribution is understandable.

Crucially, these two scenarios, whist seemingly parallel, are not. On the one hand a foolish, irresponsible, negligent driver has run over a little girl. This is a human tragedy – made seemingly worse by his subsequent attempts to evade responsibility by failing to stop at the scene. This is deplorable. But, is it criminal? Yes. Is it murder, as in the Skidmore case? No, it is not.

Our sympathies for Amy's family should not extend to retribution simply because the perpetrator is an Iraqi asylum-seeker. Depriving his family of their husband/father is not going to bring Amy back. Dad's call for punishment does not, on examination, fit the crime.

However, should Ibrahim's situation change then the law should look at the changes in circumstances and act accordingly – to the point of throwing him out if that is warranted.

In Missouri, justice is sometimes easier to judge. There but for the grace go I. I think I might have cheerfully joined in with the Skidmore vigilantes. I would be very tempted to tell the media that despite rulings otherwise I would definitely kill anyone who did such to any of mine.

It's a fine line.

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