Dismay as rapist asylum seeker evades naming

Media dismay was mounting in the wake of a court ruling that an asylum seeker and convicted rapist at the centre of a High Court legal battle cannot be identified.

The case of the Somalian man — identified only by the initial "A" — exposed a court direction made earlier this year which can give blanket anonymity to criminals from abroad who go to court to challenge moves to deport them.

In the case last week, Mr Justice Calvert Smith refused to free 31-yearold A, though he did rule that he was entitled to compensation — estimated at more than £50,000 — in respect of some of the time he has spent behind bars during deportation moves since his sentence for rape was completed.

The man in question was jailed in 1998 after being convicted of the rape and indecent assault of a 13-year-old girl at knifepoint.

A "practice direction" earlier this year by the Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke, effectively prevented his identification, and the identification of a whole host of other criminals in the same situation.

It decreed that the identities of asylum seekers seeking to challenge moves to deport them after they have been freed from jail sentences should not be revealed. Effectively the direction gives a wide range of asylum seeking offenders from overseas — such as terrorists, rapists and killers — the right to retain anonymity in respect of their fights to remain in the UK.

Media applications were made in last week's case for A's identity to be made public. However, they were refused by the judge.

Those covering the courts regularly have been dismayed by the case and the revelation of the latest practice direction.

One journalist who has covered the High Court for some 40 years said: "This is just another example of attempts to curb the media.

"Lip service is paid to the need for justice not only to be done, but to be seen to be done. Then this sort of thing happens. For justice to be done properly, people need to be told, in the majority of cases, who it is being done in respect of. It's a basic and important fact.

"However, we are increasingly not being told that these days. There seem to be more and more moves at public hearings everywhere — at tribunals, courts, and at a variety of other public hearings — to curb either identification and/or access to the addresses of those involved.

"It's about time — in fact the time is long overdue — that the media are given full access to all the information necessary for them to do their job properly and to ensure that justice really is seen to be done, and not done behind a judicially-backed smokescreen."

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