Calls for Priti Patel to apologise and withdraw comments about Liverpool bomber

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Priti Patel has declined to comment further (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Priti Patel has declined to comment further (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

The Home Secretary has been asked to apologise for comments she made in the wake of the Liverpool bombing that left her accused of stoking anger against lawyers.

Earlier this week Priti Patel claimed the suspect, Emad Al Swealmeen, who lodged an appeal when his asylum claim was rejected after arriving in the UK, had been able to exploit Britain’s “dysfunctional” immigration system by staying in the country.

Lawyers raised concerns about her “blaming the legal services industry” for the suspected hospital bomber still being in the UK.

But the PA news agency understands Al Swealmeen may never have been legally represented in court during his appeals process, prompting lawyers to call for Ms Patel to withdraw her comments and apologise.

She should withdraw her comments and apologise to the legal profession who she has targeted in this very sad and horrifying incident which had nothing to do with lawyers

Human rights lawyer Adam Wagner

According to newspapers, Ms Patel told reporters during a flight to Washington that the case showed why the Government was right to reform the asylum system, adding: “It’s a complete merry-go-round and it has been exploited. A whole sort of professional legal services industry has based itself on rights of appeal, going to the courts day in, day out at the expense of the taxpayers through legal aid. That is effectively what we need to change.”

Her comments attracted a backlash from some who, in turn, hit out at “poor Home Office decision-making” and delays for “crippling the asylum system”.

Al Swealmeen’s asylum claim was rejected and subsequent legal attempts to stay in the UK were turned down.

This has raised questions over whether the Home Office sought to remove him from the UK. But the department has repeatedly refused to provide further information on how it handled the case.

PA has confirmed that Al Swealmeen appealed to the First-tier Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber – the court that reviews Home Office decisions – in 2014 but this was turned down.

In 2015 he then applied for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber, a national court that deals with appeals, but this was refused without a full hearing taking place. This means a judge concluded there were no grounds to overturn the decision.

Officials said in January this year – some six years later – Al Swealmeen launched another First-tier Tribunal appeal, which was still outstanding at the time of Sunday’s attack. This suggests that he had submitted a fresh asylum claim to the Home Office that had also been rejected.

PA now also understands that court records for the cases indicate Al Swealmeen was not legally represented when appeals against his asylum claim decision came before the courts.

Officials said that, according to the records, he represented himself as his cases progressed. The information suggested that if he ever did receive legal advice from lawyers it would have been in the early stages of his appeals process and any representatives that may have been involved removed themselves from the case before it came to a court hearing.

The president of the Law Society of England and Wales, I. Stephanie Boyce, said: “If that’s the case we urge the Home Secretary to withdraw her comments.”

Human rights lawyer and legal commentator Adam Wagner added: “She should withdraw her comments and apologise to the legal profession who she has targeted in this very sad and horrifying incident which had nothing to do with lawyers.”

Mr Wagner said he worried that such comments put lawyers in danger and claimed that in the wake of Ms Patel’s words he received threats on social media.

Aides to the Home Secretary said she stood by her comments but would not respond further, adding that the Home Office would not be providing any more information on the case.

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