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Doubt cast on Blair's pledge to deport foreign criminals.

Tony Blair's pledge to deport all foreign criminals when they are released from prisons may not be fulfilled, Lord Falconer said yesterday.

He said "consultation" was needed on the plans to automatically deport released prisoners and there were some offences which would not "remotely justify deportation". As the crisis at the Home Office threatened to overshadow Labour's local election campaigning last week, Mr Blair told the Commons: "I think that it is now time that anybody who is convicted of an imprisonable offence and who is a foreign national is deported."

But speaking on ITV1's Dimbleby programme, Lord Falconer, the Constitutional Affairs Secretary, suggested it was not yet a done deal.

Asked if deportation would proceed in all cases, he said: "What we need to do is consult fully in relation to that. We need to identify what are the circumstances in which there is deportation.

"What the Prime Minister is saying, you need clarity about what the circumstances are."

And pressed on plans to treat all prisoners in the same way, he added: "I think we need to consult about it."

Imprisonable offences include having a dangerous dog, dodging a train fare and spraying graffiti on a wall. "There are obviously offences where it's imprisonable but a very, very minor offence is committed which wouldn't remotely justify deportation in every circumstance.

"We need to consult properly on what the criteria should be. Unless there are special circumstances we need to think about whether or not somebody who commits an imprisonable offence should be deported."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 8, 2006
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