Rishi Sunak pledges ‘three strikes’ rule to deport more foreign criminals

Rishi Sunak makes his point in emphatic style during Thursday night's hustings - Charlotte Graham for the Telegraph
Rishi Sunak makes his point in emphatic style during Thursday night's hustings - Charlotte Graham for the Telegraph

Rishi Sunak has pledged a “three strikes and you’re out” rule to deport more foreign criminals.

The leadership contender and former chancellor said he aimed to double the number of foreign offenders deported from the current 3,000 a year.

He proposed to lower the threshold for deportation to six months in jail, instead of the current 12 months, which would extend it to thieves, burglars and people who threatened others with a weapon.

This would be allied to a “three strikes and you’re out” rule under which foreign criminals sent to jail three times will also be deported – even if no single custodial sentence exceeded the new six-month minimum.

A burglar convicted of three offences that landed them in prison would be deported under his plans, even if they did not spend six months in prison or 12 consecutive months in prison.

Announcing the pledge, Mr Sunak said: “We are far too soft on foreigners who commit crime in our country, so I will double the number of foreign offenders we deport.”

The number of foreign criminals released from prison has reached a record high of more than 11,000. Official figures show that, at the end of March, there were 11,300 foreign national offenders who had been released but not deported.

Deportations of the most serious foreign criminals – including convicted rapists, murderers and robbers – have also fallen to their lowest numbers on record, down from 2,555 in 2016 to 956 in the last year.

Mr Sunak’s plans, however, were described as a “desperate gimmick” by Chris Philp, the former immigration minister and backer of rival leadership contender Liz Truss, who said it would just add to the number in the queue.

He said it failed to address the reason for failed deportations which was legal challenges by human rights lawyers and other countries failing to take them back.

“What’s stopping us removing a number of murderers and rapists, let alone someone who stole a pack of crisps, are repeated meritless legal challenges,” said Mr Philp.

Ms Truss has suggested she would be prepared to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to combat “bogus human rights, asylum and modern slavery claims” and increase deportations.

It is understood that Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, considered reducing the threshold to six months, but analysis suggested that just 400 criminals would be affected, most of whom could claim a breach of their human rights to a family life. “It’s a job creation scheme for human rights lawyers,” said a Truss camp source.

‘Crime hits the least well-off hardest’

However, in a further move to drive down crime, Mr Sunak said he would introduce a new offence targeted at prolific criminals that would see them receive an automatic extra year in jail.

It would mean career criminals who commit the most offences would have an automatic one-year custodial sentence added to their latest crime. Nine per cent of career criminals – with, on average, 19 convictions each – are responsible for 52 per cent of crime, excluding fraud.

He will task the Ministry of Justice with determining the threshold of crimes at which the extra year in jail would take effect.

“I will cut crime by locking the most prolific offenders up, keeping them locked up, and building the prison space needed to do so,” he said.

“Crime hits the least well-off hardest. It is the local shop-keeper who has his cash register raided. The frail grandmother who is mugged. The young boy whose life is ruined by getting mixed up with the wrong crowd.

“Cracking down on foreign offenders and career criminals will dramatically cut crime across our country, making it a safer place for people to live.”