A deportation flight to Jamaica left the UK with just four convicted criminals on board after 33 others were granted a last-minute legal reprieve.
According to the Home Office four criminals were deported and returned to Jamaica on Wednesday after 33 legal challenges stopped offenders from boarding the flight.
Some 13 of those challenges were made in the 24 hours before the flight left the UK.
The sentences of those who were returned to Jamaica totalled 16 years and three months, the Home Office said.
The people removed to Jamaica today are convicted criminals who have been found guilty of a range of serious offences. They have no place in our society
It is understood the offenders had been convicted of a number of serious crimes including murder, child sex offences, kidnap, firearms and drug offences.
The sentences of those who were all intended to get on to the flight on Wednesday totalled 127 years, the Home Office said.
The Home Secretary said: “I make no apology for removing foreign national offenders who have committed crimes which will have had a devastating impact on their victims.
“The people removed to Jamaica today are convicted criminals who have been found guilty of a range of serious offences. They have no place in our society.
“It is absolutely galling that, yet again, last-minute legal claims have stopped the removal of 33 people, including those guilty of abhorrent crimes such as murder and child sex offences. This is why our Nationality and Borders Bill will deliver changes to the law to make it easier to remove foreign criminals and prevent them from gaming the broken system.”
Reports emerged earlier this week that the deportation flight was the subject of protests by activists called “Stop the Plane”.
It was reported the activists locked themselves to metal pipes outside an immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport following concerns over the Windrush scandal.
The Home Office says extensive checks have been carried out to ensure none of the criminals deported were British citizens, British nationals or members of the Windrush generation.
Seth Ramocan, Jamaica’s high commissioner in London, spoke out last week about the deportations and said he was concerned that some who have been in the UK since they were children would be returned to Jamaica.
A Movement for Justice survey of 17 Jamaicans detained for the flight found that 10 of them had lived in the UK since they were children.
Mr Ramocan told The Guardian: “From a human rights perspective I am deeply concerned about cases in which persons are being removed having lived in the UK since childhood and have no known relations in Jamaica or familiarity with Jamaica.”
The Home Office refused to disclose the offences committed by the four convicted criminals on Wednesday’s flight, citing freedom of information rules.