Bibby Stockholm resident convicted of assault and shoplifting charges

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a resident of the Bibby Stockholm barge for asylum seekers after he failed to attend court for assault and shoplifting charges.

Ahmed Haffa was due to appear at Poole Magistrates’ Court on Thursday accused of stealing a jacket worth £59.99 from TK Maxx in Weymouth, Dorset.

The 24-year-old was also set to stand trial for common assault and assault by beating and was found guilty of the three charges in his absence by the district judge Orla Austin.

Court documents show the offences were committed on December 13, 2023 by Haffa, who had pleaded not guilty to all three counts on January 18.

The court register stated: “Warrant for arrest without bail – Grounds for warrant: no appearance in answer to bail.”

In a statement, Dorset Police said: “On Thursday February 29 2024, a warrant was issued by Poole Magistrates’ Court in relation to a defendant, aged 24 and of Portland, who had failed to attend court in relation to allegations of theft and assault, and was subsequently convicted in his absence.

“The charges related to incidents in Weymouth town centre on Wednesday December 13, 2023.

“Officers are currently carrying out inquiries to locate the defendant.”

The Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge
The Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge was moored up in Portland Harbour in July last year (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Home Office was approached for confirmation of Haffa’s status as an asylum seeker and how his conviction will affect his claim to remain in the country, but a spokeswoman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing police investigation.”

Dorset Police has also been asked for details about what action is being taken to detain Haffa following the issuing of the warrant for his arrest.

The High Court has heard arguments this week about whether Dorset Council was wrong to decide in July 2023 not to consider using its enforcement powers over the Bibby Stockholm ship.

Lawyers for mayor of Portland Carralyn Parkes, who is bringing her case in a personal capacity, said she was “deeply concerned” about the 93-metre-long barge accommodating migrants in Portland Harbour and wants a judge to order the council to reconsider its position.

The Home Office in London
The Home Office has shelved plans to procure more barges to hold asylum seekers, it was reported last month (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The 222-room, three-storied ship was towed into the harbour and moored to a “finger pier” in July last year, after the Government announced it would be used to house asylum seekers for at least 18 months.

The barge has since been hit by problems, delays and disputes, including the discovery of dangerous bacteria last summer that led to an evacuation, with it lying vacant for two months.

An inquest is also ongoing into the death of one asylum seeker thought to have taken his own life while living on board.

Last month, it was reported that the Home Office had shelved plans to procure more barges to hold asylum seekers amid struggles to find ports willing to take them.