The argument over immigration controls deepened last night after a gang of teenage robbers who were in the country illegally was convicted of killing a woman as she held a six-month-old baby at a christening party.
It was the second time this week that immigrants who had been allowed to remain in Britain despite committing a string of offences were found guilty of a brutal killing.
On Tuesday, a court heard how two Somali men involved in the shooting of Pc Sharon Beshenivksy had been spared deportation because their homeland was judged too dangerous for them.
At the Old Bailey yesterday, Diamond Babamuboni, 17, his brother Timy, 15, and Jude Odigie, 16, all from Nigeria, were convicted of the manslaughter of Zainab Kalokoh, 31, a married mother of two children from war-ravaged Sierra Leone.
A fourth, who cannot be named, was found guilty of her murder at the party in Peckam, south London, in August last year. The Babamuboni brothers—whose mother had been refused leave to remain in the country—were in Britain illegally. Odigie had also been told he could not stay.
Yet despite this, they carried on a life of crime with apparent impunity other than occasional court appearances. They were meant to attend courses run by local youth offender teams but shunned any interventions.
The brothers had been in trouble since before their teenage years, with convictions for robbery, assault and theft. Odigie had convictions for disorderly behaviour.
Last night, a Home Office spokesman said: “Foreign nationals must obey the laws of this country in the same way as everybody else and those who have committed criminal offences here are therefore subject to the same legal processes as anyone else in the UK, and can expect prosecution and, where appropriate, a custodial sentence and deportation.
“The vast majority of people who come to the UK abide by this country’s laws, but we want to make clear that we will not accommodate those that abuse our hospitality and sanctuary by becoming involved in crime.”
But David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: “This is a consequence of serial government failure. How much longer must the public suffer the, all too often lethal, threat to their safety of this Government’s absolute failure to either deport or incarcerate those people who should not be in our communities?”
Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch, said the Government was either not deporting those it could or was unable to remove them because of human rights laws.
“The time is rapidly approaching when we must fundamentally review our inability to deport foreign nationals with a string of criminal convictions.”
John Denham, the Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, told BBC’s Newsnight, that it “does stick in the throat” when the courts refused to deport illegal immigrants because they would face danger in countries that they then returned to voluntarily.
“Governments would prefer to be in a position where you are more able to say to the courts that if an individual breaches the social contract and puts themselves in a such a bad position then these absolute human rights must be qualified.”
Brian Altman, prosecuting. said: “The gang intended extreme violence and extreme violence is what they did.
As the gang rushed into the hall, Mrs Kalokoh was holding her niece, who had been christened, in her arms.
“She was shot while she cradled the baby,” said Mr Altman. “The effect of the shot to her head caused Mrs Kalokoh to collapse to the floor still with the baby in her arms. Although covered in Mrs Kalokoh’s blood the baby was mercifully unharmed.”
As the woman lay dying, the gang stole money and valuables from the guests, carrying the spoils in bin bags.
A witness said that as the gang returned home, they were arguing about who had shot Mrs Kalokoh.
She fled Sierra Leone in the expectation that Britain would offer her family a peaceful and violence-free life. “She was tragically wrong,” Mr Altman said.
The Babamubonis and Odigie were cleared of murder but convicted of robbery and possession of a firearm at the time of committing an offence. The fourth defendant was also convicted of robbery and possession of a firearm.
Mr Justice Gross, ordered that the three could be named by the media despite their ages. They will be sentenced in February.