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Clarke plans tougher rules on foreign convicts

Written by: Staff

LONDON, May 3 (Reuters) Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who is facing calls to resign over a row about foreign prisoners, is expected to tell the House of Commons today of plans to tighten the law on deporting foreign criminals.

Clarke is expected to say he wants to introduce a presumption that any foreigner convicted of an offence that warrants a prison term should be considered for deportation.

The minister has been battling for his political life after disclosures last week that 1,023 foreign prisoners who had served their sentences were released without being considered for deportation, and that some of them went on to reoffend.

Pressure on Clarke increased overnight after reports that one of the suspects in the murder of policewoman Sharon Beshenivsky was a Somalian -- Mustaf Jamma -- was considered for deportation by home office officials, but allowed to stay.

''We are told the individual concerned was considered for deportation and approved to stay in the country and what that raises is a question over 2,500 foreign criminals who were approved after their sentence to stay in the country,'' said David Davis, opposition Conservative spokesman on home affairs.

Davis told BBC radio he wanted to know how many crimes the 2,500 had committed since they had been allowed to stay.

Beshenivsky shot last November when she went to investigate an armed robbery at a Bradford travel agency. Jamma was named as a suspect but is now on the run.

The Home Office said the last successful deportations to Somalia, which has suffered internal conflict for several years, were in early 2004.

''Somalia is a very unstable country and we have not attempted any deportations since then,'' an official said.

The calls for Clarke to resign come at a difficult time for Blair, with local elections due on Thursday and a separate scandal surrounding Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who admitted last week to having an affair with his secretary.

Reuters CH DB1247

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