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Murderers among returning prisoners

Murderers and rapists are among 321 UK nationals convicted abroad but returned to English and Welsh prisons to serve the remainder of their sentences, figures show.

Convicted child sex offenders, fraudsters and a tobacco smuggler are also included in the list of those sent back from 37 countries around the world between January 2010 and December 2013.

Spain proved to be the destination where the most offenders returned from, with 83 prisoners who were convicted of a range of offences including attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, sexual assault and rape.

Thirty-three UK citizens returned from Ireland, 28 from the USA, 17 from Cyprus, 15 from Thailand and 13 each from Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Germany and Japan.

The data shows s ix people given life sentences were sent back - four for murder from Australia, Germany, USA and Ireland, and two for drug offences from Laos and Vietnam.

The figures emerged during a period in which Justice Secretary Chris Grayling denied claims of an "overcrowding crisis" in England and Wales' prisons and conceded the UK's attempts to deport foreign criminals are proving "more stubborn and difficult" than expected.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright added 19,423 foreign national offenders were removed from the UK in the same period - 2010 to 2013 - for the figures outlining how many UK nationals had returned.

Mr Wright disclosed the data in a letter to shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan as he responded to a written parliamentary question.

Labour's Mr Khan had asked a series of questions, including how many UK citizens had been returned from abroad to complete prison sentences in English and Welsh jails in the last four years.

Mr Wright replied: "From January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2013, 321 UK citizens were returned from abroad to serve the remainder of their custodial sentence in prisons in England and Wales."

He said information on the time an offender had left to serve upon their arrival in the UK was not held centrally and could only be obtained by manual checks of records, adding this would "incur disproportionate costs".

Mr Wright also said: "I should also point out that during the same period, a total of 19,423 foreign national offenders were removed from the UK."

In a cautionary note, Mr Wright said care had been taken when compiling the information on UK citizens returned to England and Wales although added the figures "may be subject to inaccuracies associated with any recording system".

Mr Khan said: "These figures I've uncovered show the scale of the incompetence in the Ministry of Justice who didn't realise that foreign prisoners are a two-way street.

"Ministers will need to bear in mind that there are Brits in foreign prisons who could be repatriated back here to serve their sentences.

"This is another reason why it's incompetent and short-sighted to make any more rash decisions about closing down jails without factoring in the need to house British citizens in British prisons as the overcrowding crisis could be made even worse."

Conservative Philip Hollobone, who raised the issue of deporting foreign criminals with Mr Grayling yesterday, said of the figures: "I think most people would agree that foreign nationals should serve their time back in their own countries of origin.

"It's also perfectly fair for British nationals convicted overseas to serve time in the UK.

"Where there is international cooperation in the compulsory transfer of prisoners, the system works well.

"The problem is there is a significant number of countries who have a lot of foreign nationals committing crimes in the UK who refuse to take their foreign nationals back - that needs to change.

"If they will not take them back, I think we should send them the bill."

Kettering MP Mr Hollobone said he believed the Human Rights Act was one thing getting in the way of a "sensible prisoner repatriation policy", adding: "But having said that, if the Government really had the political will to sort this out with high volume countries - many of whom are members of the Commonwealth, too many of whom we give very large amounts of aid assistance - I think we could actually make a meaningful dent in those numbers."


From Belfast Telegraph