Our Home Affairs Committee report today on the UK Border Agency (UKBA) insists that ministers are right to take direct control. The Home Secretary has put Brian Moore, a Chief Constable, in charge of the Border Force and I look forward to her now showing that ministers are in charge of UKBA, which should not be called an Agency when it is part of the Home Office.
Following our visit to the Greece/Turkey border the Home Affairs Committee has been calling for a much stronger focus on bringing people smugglers to justice and stiff sentences to deter others. Unfortunately, a UKBA legal case which has only just come to light once again underlines what our Committee has now been saying for a number of years – the UKBA is not fit for purpose.
The judge’s decision in R v Niru Rivindra contains perhaps the most shocking condemnation of a public body, here the UKBA, which I have read since I trained as a lawyer. The outcome of UKBA’s rank incompetence was the waste of a huge amount of time, energy and money, with any people smugglers involved getting away scot-free.
The case shows that UKBA was unable to follow the most basic procedures (e.g. taking a note of a witness interview) needed to bring an offender to justice and that, as it has until now been constituted, UKBA is quite incapable of investigating and prosecuting cases. No-one could tell the judge who was in charge and UKBA could not initially even answer the judge’s question as to who was prosecuting.
The judge in this collapsed case generally commended individual police officers for doing their best, but raised particular concerns about the role of Mr Allen, a UKBA Assistant Director. Many questions still remain unanswered and I will be asking for the Home Affairs Committee to investigate.
At least Brian Moore, the Chief Constable now in charge of the Border Force, should be able to bring some basic police rigour and procedure to UKBA people smuggling investigations and prosecutions.