Belfast Telegraph

Mike Tyson's ban from Britain: Whatever happened to giving people second chance?

By Janet Street-Porter

Mike Tyson is a deeply conflicted man. Reading extracts from his new autobiography recently made me feel a bit grubby.

His story is utterly gripping and extremely sad – a deprived childhood, a drunken mother, who slept with men in front of him.

A shy little kid with a lisp whom other kids called 'fairy boy', he eventually went to live with his trainer, Cus D'Amato; when Cus died, Tyson poured champagne on his grave.

In interviews to promote the book, Tyson veers between the aggressive and the painfully honest, describing himself as "wretched".

This is a guy who bit a big chunk out of the ear of an opponent, so he's not someone to argue with. He's on the booze, off the booze, taking each day at a time, helped by his patient wife.

Over the years, he's been convicted for rape, assault, cocaine possession and drunk-driving. Even though he served his time in jail, we in the UK won't be able to hear Mike Tyson, or see him in the flesh. New immigration laws bar anyone who has received a sentence of more than four years from entering the country.

You might think that Tyson is an unwholesome individual, a completely appalling role model for young men. And you'd be right. But I thought we were a country that gave people a second chance and a country that stood up for free speech.

After all, he has served his sentence and has spent a lot of time trying to change his ways.

He was meant to come here again next year, on a tour produced by film director Spike Lee. Tyson is a phenomenon and surely his dreadful 'journey' would act as a deterrent to young black men – many of whom think that aggression is the right mantra for their lives.

Tyson's plight is a lesson in how deprivation and rejection can ruin your life and stunt your development. I am ashamed that we changed our immigration laws in such an unyielding way; up to December 2012, border officials could use their discretion when anyone with a criminal conviction tried to visit. Now there's a blanket ban.

At the same time, the dumb protester who disrupted the Boat Race in 2012 has won his fight to stay in Britain.

Theresa May had wanted to chuck out Australian Trenton Oldfield, who jumped into the Thames and swam into the path of the boats. Having served six weeks of a six-month sentence, he was denied a spousal visa that would have allowed him to stay in the UK.

Appealing against that decision, he submitted a file of 100 letters to the court, attesting to his community work, and was backed by activists from the Defend the Right to Protest Group.

I have never understood exactly what Mr Oldfield was protesting about and, although I support his right to demonstrate, there was something pathetic about disrupting a sporting event that two teams had spent months preparing for and which million of people enjoy watching on television. Worse, his 'protest' will encourage copycats in the future.

And what did it achieve? Bugger all.

He's a nice, middle-class guy and I'm glad he can stay in the UK. But I am very annoyed the same Home Office officials have denied a boxer the right to visit.

If Mr Oldfield (whose wife, Deepa Naik, is of Indian origin and who says London is "the most unequal western city in the world") had been black, the outcome of his trial would have been very different.

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