Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Apocryphal insights into the costs of immigration

In an idle moment at court yesterday I found myself perusing the front cover of my notebook. This is where I write the names of all my clients in the Crown and Magistrates' courts, a sort of ready-to-hand index. Not for the first time I was drawn to the number of, ah, how to put this delicately, non-English names thereon.

Non-English names? In this era of multicultism, whatever can this mean? Surely Abu-Abbas is every bit as English as Fothergill. Whatever. The point was, there were a good many more Abu-Abbas', and Diaconus and Lukombos and Chens than there were Fothergills, Urquharts and Farquhars.

Now, some of the former now doubt hold British passports. Many do not.

So here's a straw poll, taken from the covers of my three most recent notebooks:

Current notebook: fully two-thirds of my clients have 'non-English' names.

Immediately prior notebook: just over one-third of my clients have 'non-English' names.

Third notebook: almost fifty per cent of my clients have 'non-English' names.

This is necessarily a crude yardstick of the criminal costs of immigration since some of the 'English names' are actually those of immigrants - 'Mr Johnson' being a classic Nigerian a.k.a., for example. Also, I have not counted the Irish names. So the true figure in each case is probably higher.

But on average between the three notebooks, very nearly fifty per cent of my clients have names that are obviously not of Anglo-Saxon origin.

Bear in mind also that many of these people will require free interpreters as well as free legal representation. In addition, most criminal suspects are either living on the proceeds of their criminal activity, or claiming benefits (or both). Very, very few work.

Of course it's a difficult subject. I have written about it before, here,


and noted that out of a prison population of between 70 and 80,000, some ten thousand are foreigners - and this figure takes no account of those custodies of, ahem, foreign extraction.

So if we assume that the true proportion of defendants of foreign extraction* being dealt with by the criminal justice system is somewhere between the 13 per cent suggested by the prison population and the almost fifty per cent suggested by my straw poll - i.e. almost one third of all defendants - then what is the appropriate reaction? Are we supposed to be cool with this figure? No big deal and awfully bad taste, old chap, to raise it?



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