Scandal of elderly patients unable to read or drive as half of NHS trusts cut back on cataract ops to save money
Drastic restrictions on eye operations imposed by half of NHS trusts have put thousands of patients at risk of losing their sight, a report warns. Elderly victims of the cutbacks are being left unable to read, write or drive as they wait longer for cataract surgery, it says.
Patients in their early-60s have been denied operations even though their job relies on them being able to drive or operate machinery, eye specialists add.
The damning report reveals the scandal of PCTs picking surgery for a cataract – a clouding of the eye lens – as an ‘easy target’ to save money by increasing the threshold for vision loss before patients can have an operation, and also by increasing waiting times.
In some areas, ‘arbitrary’ restrictions mean they can have only one eye operated on. Some PCTs have suspended surgery for weeks at a time to claw back overspending at the end of a financial year, it is claimed.
Official guidance from the Department of Health states patients should have surgery if the cataract affects sight, has an impact on quality of life, and if he or she understands the risks and agrees to it.
But the report for the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the Royal National Institute of Blind People insists this is not happening routinely and many PCTs are implementing ‘visual acuity’ thresholds.
The research is based on Freedom of Information request results from 133 PCTs in England. Of these, 70 PCTs (53 per cent) are restricting access and have implemented the threshold for surgery on either the first or second eye. Meanwhile, 56 PCTs (42 per cent) allow surgery according to the guidelines or if clinicians deem it appropriate. In a further seven PCTs (5 per cent), the policy is under review or an updated one is being worked on.
Experts believe trusts restricting access are doing so without ‘robust evidence’ that this will not harm patients or increase inequalities.
Dennis Sleigh, 69, had a cataract removed in March but was told he cannot have his second eye done due to ‘PCT policy’. The singer, songwriter and poet from Derby said: ‘This is impairing my independence. I feel frustrated and abandoned.’
Barbara McLaughlan, of the RNIB and author of the report, said the data suggested PCTs had picked on cataract operations as an ‘easy target’ where patients could be made to wait longer without harm.
‘Cataract surgery should be performed when consultants believe it is in the patients’ best interest,’ she said. ‘But some PCTs are forcing patients to live with unnecessary sight loss and a reduced quality of life.’
Larry Benjamin, chairman of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists’ cataract guideline committee, described the cutbacks as ‘a false economy’, adding: ‘This short-term saving could lead to older people having other accidents, potentially increasing NHS costs in the longer term.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘PCTs should ensure that in each case the clinical needs of each patient are taken into account and should not be introducing blanket bans on access to treatment.’
A cataract operation costs the NHS £932 for the first eye and £808 for the second. It is the most common surgical procedure in the UK, with 400,000 carried out each year.
Hospital patient died after staff turned down heart monitor alarm
An elderly hospital patient suffered severe brain damage and died after staff turned down the volume on an alarm system monitoring his heart.
David Bough, a 65-year-old driving instructor, was in hospital waiting to have a defibrillator device fitted to his heart when it stopped beating. But because staff at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire cardiology unit could not hear the alarm, it was 15 minutes before they realised Mr Bough, from Werrington in Staffordshire, was in grave danger.
They were alerted by his daughter, Marie McHugh, who was unable to get a response from him when she came to visit and noticed a warning light flashing on the equipment. Doctors were able to restart Mr Bough’s heart, but his brain had been starved of oxygen and he died six days later.
An investigation found the volume of the heart-monitor alarm had been turned down to 40 per cent of its maximum on November 21, 2008. The speakers had also been turned the wrong way and covered in paperwork. An inquest sitting with a jury at Hanley Town Hall yesterday heard the volume could not have been reduced accidentally as someone has to change the settings on a computer system.
Margaret Archer, a sister at the hospital at the time of the incident, said she had not heard the crisis alarm sound when Mr Bough’s condition worsened.
North Staffordshire coroner Ian Smith asked her: ‘Is this a case where someone on your shift has just turned the volume down, or has it been like this for some considerable time?’ She replied: ‘I don’t know. I wouldn’t have allowed anyone to do it.’
The inquest heard that Dr Duwarakan Satchi, a cardiology consultant at the hospital, ran to Mr Bough’s room when his daughter told doctors she could not get a response from him.
After restarting Mr Bough’s heart, Dr Satchi checked the telemetry system that monitors the heart rates of up to ten patients on the ward. ‘I checked the monitor, which appeared to still be flashing red, but there was no audible alarm,’ he said. ‘I checked the screen to see if it had detected an abnormal heart rhythm and it had done so for between 15 and 17 minutes.’
Mr Smith told Dr Satchi: ‘Had he been treated promptly, the likelihood is you would have got his heart back earlier and he wouldn’t have suffered the significant brain damage he did.’ Dr Satchi replied: ‘Yes.’
As Mr Bough’s relatives sobbed in the gallery, the coroner ruled that he died of natural causes ‘exacerbated by an act of omission causing alerts from the heart monitoring to not be seen or heard’ [What a dishonest verdict! It was a deliberate act that killed him; not an “act of omission”. At age 65 he could have had many more years with his family]
New realistic British policy on self-defence
Householders were yesterday given licence to kill burglars with knives or pokers without fear of prosecution. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke suggested people would be judged to have acted within the law as long as they did not shoot intruders in the back as they were running away down the road. And he pledged that an act of Parliament would be used to ‘clarify’ the existing legal right to use reasonable force against intruders.
Prime Minister David Cameron last week promised that the Government would ‘put beyond doubt that homeowners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted’.
The move follows public outrage at cases like that of Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who shot dead a burglar, and Munir Hussain, who chased and beat a man who had held his family at knifepoint in their home.
‘If an old lady finds she has got an 18-year-old burgling her house and she picks up a kitchen knife and sticks it in him, she has not committed a criminal offence and we will make that clear,’ Mr Clarke said. ‘There is no doubt that you or I or anybody else is entitled to use reasonable force to defend ourselves and to protect ourselves or our homes or both. ‘We will make it quite clear you can hit the burglar with the poker if he is in the house and you have a perfect defence if you do so.’
Mr Clarke accepted that the defence of reasonable force already exists, but said: ‘Given that doubts are expressed, we are going to clarify that.
‘It is quite obvious that people are entitled to use whatever force is necessary to protect themselves and their homes. What they are not entitled to do is go running down the road chasing them or shooting them in the back when they are running away or to get their friends together and go and beat them up. ‘Nobody should prosecute and nobody should ever convict anybody who takes these steps.’
Labour’s justice spokesman Sadiq Khan accused the Government of using ‘spin and smokescreens of new laws in an attempt to distract from what is a Justice Bill in total shambles’
An official spokesman for David Cameron said that the Prime Minister was ‘very pleased’ with Mr Clarke’s remarks, but Labour’s justice spokesman Sadiq Khan, right, said the Justice Bill is in ‘total shambles’
It is not clear whether a clause will be added to the Government’s Justice Bill later in the year, or guidelines to police, prosecutors and courts will be strengthened.
One in four accused of ‘street grooming’ in Britain is a Pakistani or Bangladeshi Muslim
One in four men accused of ‘street grooming’ underage girls for sex is Asian, a shocking report reveals. In total, 2,379 offenders are suspected of attempting to lure vulnerable victims, often using drugs and alcohol, over the past three years.
And a ‘disproportionate’ 28 per cent of them were found to be Asian, in those cases where ethnicity was recorded. The ethnic group makes up just six per cent of the UK population.
But although the figures are likely to provoke controversy, officials warn that they are incomplete and potentially misleading.
The report was ordered after the ringleaders of a Derby gang, which subjected a string of vulnerable girls to rapes and sexual assaults, were jailed earlier this year. Following the case, former home secretary Jack Straw accused some Pakistani men in Britain of seeing white girls as ‘easy meat’ for sexual abuse.
Several police forces have investigations currently going on into gangs suspected of systematically abusing young girls.
The latest figures were revealed in the most detailed assessment yet of a crime that takes place ‘under the radar’.
Civil servants have spent weeks arguing over how best to present the potentially incendiary findings of the six-month study, which examined figures dating back to 2008. It found that of 1,217 offenders whose ethnicity had been recorded, 346 were Asian, 367 white, 38 black, 464 unknown and two Chinese.
Analysis revealed that 28 per cent of offenders are Asian. The majority of offenders were men aged between 18 and 24, with many using flattery and gifts to make victims believe they had an ‘older boyfriend’. Of the 2,083 victims, 61 per cent were white, and most aged 14 or 15. Many were in care, or had a history of running away from home.
And many victims were reluctant to speak to police and feared appearing in court because ‘they did not expect to be believed’.
However, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre said its research is incomplete because authorities across the UK are failing to record basic information.
Peter Davies, who leads the agency, said local authorities charged with protecting children are failing to take ‘elementary steps’, including recording statistics. He said: ‘This is a horrific crime, it involves the systematic, premeditated rape of young children. ‘There should be no hiding place anywhere for people who plan and take part in this type of crime.
‘Victims need a level of help and support that in most parts of the country they do not receive and is not on offer to them.’ Mr Davies admitted the figures did reveal a ‘disproportionate’ number of male, Asian offenders. But he warned: ‘Focusing on this problem simply through the lens of ethnicity does not do it service.’
In the Derby case, Abid Saddique and Mohammed Liaqat, part of a gang of nine, cruised the streets of the town, picking victims who they plied with vodka and cocaine before attacking them. In January, they were told they would serve a minimum of 11 years and eight years respectively before they could be considered for release.
The Government will publish an action plan in the autumn, detailing how it will respond to concerns about the sexual exploitation of children. Last week, Children’s Minister Tim Loughton provoked a row by suggesting that ‘closed’ Asian communities have turned a blind eye to child sex grooming by gangs of men. He said criminals had escaped detection because of attitudes within their communities as well as ‘political correctness and racial sensitivities’ of the authorities.
Anne Marie Carrie, of Barnado’s said the report confirms not all victims come forward. ‘Still more children remain trapped under the control of their abusers because we are failing to spot the signs,’ she warned.
Home Office Minister James Brokenshire said: ‘This assessment is an important step in our understanding an extremely complex issue.’
Bureaucracy assists British teachers’ strike
With thousands of teachers on strike for the day, Anne Atkins volunteered to help keep local classrooms open – only to be rejected at every turn
When I heard Education Secretary Michael Gove’s old-fashioned call for parents to volunteer if their child’s school is threatened with closure by the teachers’ strike, I thought, well, why not? Mums’ Army, Big Society, ra-de-rah, and all that.
Up to 10,000 schools in England and Wales expect to be affected by today’s union walk-out in protest over changes to public-sector pension schemes. Even public schools such as Eton and Cheltenham Ladies’ College are braced for walk-outs, while masters at St Paul’s will down tools for the first time in the school’s 500-year history.
Parents, of course, will be hardest hit. For those who aren’t free to take Gove up on his suggestion to take a lesson or two themselves today, mothers and fathers will have had to take time off work to look after their own children, or make other childcare arrangements.
I’m lucky. I’m available to volunteer. I wouldn’t be the slightest bit inconvenienced if my eight-year-old daughter couldn’t go to school: I work from home, our house is always full of people, and she is perfectly able to educate herself for more than a day. Nor do I side with one party or the other: I come from a family of teachers, have the highest regard for them, and believe they can’t ever be paid enough if they’re good.
But I do believe children are infinitely more important than politics; I like my daughter’s friends hugely and their mothers just as much; and I’ve learnt that we pull together in life – particularly women, and particularly mothers. I dare hope there are things I could contribute in the classroom and, if it will help, that’s reason enough.
I rang my daughter’s school. One of the perks of my husband’s employment as chaplain in a boys’ public school is a place for our daughter in the sister establishment. I was confidently told that we don’t close for hail, snow, wrong kind of leaves, bubonic plague or world war. Certainly not industrial action, which our staff won’t be engaging in. No, silly me, of course not.
But since I’m on the telephone, I said, what would your response be to parents volunteering? My daughter’s school, I discovered, has the strictest policy possible. Not only do you have to be thoroughly vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) in order to do anything – help the girls off with their coats, let alone accompany them to the lavatory – but the charitable trust that also employs my husband uses its own “enhanced” CRB check “which would show up the library fine you didn’t pay at the age of 14”. Crikey. I rack my brains: what else do they know about me?
An unchecked parent could just about watch the girls walk down the street under close supervision of a teacher. “Forgive my asking,” I said, properly curious now, “but is that for PR purposes? Or because you believe it really protects them?”
“It is so there is absolutely no comeback whatsoever,” says the voice on the line. “We do everything we possibly can to keep them safe.”
I should have found all this reassuring. No one is going to abuse my daughter while helping her blow her nose, at least no one who hasn’t the wit to jump through that hoop, anyway. Instead, I put the telephone down rather sadly. Was there any point in my volunteering for anything? The school already know me. My husband is the chaplain and I presented the prizes at Speech Day. Not, I hasten to add, that I would want any exceptions made on that account, or any other.
Never mind. There are plenty of state schools in the vicinity. One of them could surely do with an extra pair of hands if they’re going to be short-staffed. Half a dozen phone calls later, I had discovered not only that very few schools in my area are threatened with closure, but that none – not a single one – would ever contemplate help from anyone who doesn’t have CRB clearance. One said that it followed local authority guidelines to the letter, though when I asked the LA what those were, I was told they didn’t have any.
Henlow Middle School, about 10 miles from my Bedfordshire home, is trying very hard to stay open for the sake of its 500-plus pupils, who are aged between nine and 13. The school wants to do everything it can to continue as usual under difficult circumstances. But to cope with the teacher shortage – the strike coincides with a Year Five visit to Kentwell Hall – it would have to turn away most pupils in Years Seven and Eight. A little free help might make all the difference.
“Gosh,” said the receptionist when I offered to pitch in, “what a great idea. How kind.” She went off to ask. A few minutes later, she came back with the dreaded question: are you CRB-approved?
Afraid not, sorry. “In that case, we can’t.”
If I’d been through the standard check, would they have accepted?
“Definitely, yes.” Without it, not even a parent they’d known for years would be let into the school to help supervise Year Six’s activities week.
Hang on. I’m struggling to find a subtle way of putting this. What could be more likely to indicate a raging paedophile than a complete stranger with no connection to the school and no obvious motive, offering to spend the day unpaid, hanging around children? And yet if I’d had that little bit of paper, they would automatically assume I’m safe – and more so than someone they know, with children at the school.
Despite the Coalition’s pledge to “return to common-sense government”, almost one million CRB checks were made on volunteers in 2010 – a sixfold increase since the bureau was launched in 2002. One Leicestershire school last year banned parents from its sports day as it could not guarantee they had been vetted by police. Several high-profile children’s authors, including Michael Morpurgo, Anne Fine and Philip Pullman, gave up visiting schools in protest at being forced to undergo CRB checks.
My family has come up against CRB anomalies of our own. For several years, our son had been junior leader on a Scripture Union Beach Mission. One year I asked why he wasn’t helping as usual. “No CRB,” he said. “But you never had one before,” I said. “I wasn’t 18 before.”
A few years ago, our other son was going off to help on a children’s Christian holiday camp, again something he’d done for years. He wouldn’t be looking after children, but washing up with other adults. He’d bought his train ticket, packed and was ready to leave, but the CRB check he’d applied for months earlier still hadn’t arrived, so he couldn’t go.
I rang the head office, spoke to someone senior, said our family had been helping the same camp for years, they knew us all extremely well and his sisters and brother were already there. It all cut little ice until I played the disability card – our son has Asperger syndrome, not that you’d know it – and common sense prevailed: the authority agreed to turn a blind eye.
I’ve had my own brush with the CRB. I recently offered to help at our daughter’s Saturday morning theatre club. They were embarking on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and finding it daunting. I trained, then worked, as an actor. For years, I ran the educational side of the Original Shakespeare Company, taking workshops to schools. I’ve enthused classes of children as young as five acting Shakespeare. I studied English at Oxford. All this, buckshee. The response? “A CRB check will have to be done by the sports centre.” I never heard any more from the club.
There has been one happy exception in all this nonsense. When my husband became Chaplain, I offered to teach the boys to read lessons in Chapel – something garbled almost inaudibly. For two terms I gave my time, several hours a week, running workshops, having them to our house for curries, teaching them how to project and prepare and interpret and communicate.
Supervised? My husband attended when he was free, but sometimes he wasn’t. And the response from the boys was terrific. Their readings changed beyond recognition. They gained confidence, discovered Biblical treasures, pleaded for more.
Naturally, neither I nor any of my family has ever committed any crime. But we’d be forgiven if one day the Criminal Records Bureau pushes us over the edge.
Cancer patients prescribed chewing gum to aid recovery from surgery
An unpublished study!
Doctors at a leading London hospital are advising bowel cancer patients to chew sugar-free gum after their operations, in order to get their digestive systems back to normal so they can get better faster.
Studies have found that patients undergoing surgery likely to affect their bowel function were fit enough to go home as much as two days earlier than other patients if they chewed gum.
Chewing gum has helped new mothers recovering from caesarean sections, as well as patients undergoing stomach surgery, who can suffer from painful cramps until digestion returns to normal, research has found.
Now surgeons at University College London Hospital are asking patients booked for bowel cancer surgery to bring supplies of sugar-free gum with them, to be chewed three times a day, for an hour, after their operation.
Consultant colorectal surgeon Alastair Windsor said the trial is part of a programme to find new ways to help patients recover from treatment. He said many patients undergoing many types of surgery likely to affect their digestive system could benefit from bringing gum to hospital – but advised them to ask their own doctor first.
Mr Windsor said: “One of the things that delays people recovering from surgery is that they get what is called an ileas – where the bowel goes to sleep. “It seems that chewing gum can stimulate the saliva, which starts enzyme production in the pancreas, and that then stimulates gastro-intestinal activity.”
The trial, which began six months ago, has yet to publish results, but the surgeon said so far patients were responding well to it. He said: “Patients seem to like it and in particular to like the fact they are doing something to aid the recovery. We don’t yet know how far it is speeding up their recovery, but there doesn’t seem to be a downside to it.”
The surgeon added: “If I was a patient going into hospital for surgery, I would say talk to your medical team first, but from all the research done, it seems that chewing gum is something that can help patients and for most people, it is certainly unlikely to do any harm.”
Different studies from across the world have shown faster recovery when patients are asked to chew gum, but it is not known whether the act works as a placebo, improving patients’ sense of well-being, and reducing stress – which could in itself improve bowel function – or whether the impact is physical.
British green ‘stealth tax to encourage wind farms and nuclear power will hit the poor the hardest’
A green ‘stealth’ tax to encourage new wind farms and nuclear power plants could push tens of thousands of households into fuel poverty but do nothing to reduce emissions.
The carbon floor price, announced in the March Budget, could even end up giving climate policies a ‘bad name’, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has warned.
To be introduced in 2013, the tax is intended to encourage investment in low-carbon energy – and raise billions for the Treasury. Under the existing rules, energy companies must generate a fixed amount of green energy every year, or else buy permits to pollute on the open market. The new tax kicks in if the cost of these permits falls too low. From 2013, the ‘floor price’ of a permit needed to emit a tonne of carbon will be set at £16, rising to £30 by 2020.
The higher cost of electricity will be passed on to household and business customers with energy-guzzling industries hit hardest.
But the IPPR, a centre-left think-tank, says that householders, many of whom are already struggling to pay their fuel bills, will also suffer. It estimates that 30,000 to 60,000 more households will be pushed into fuel poverty – defined as spending more than 10 per cent of your disposable income on heat and light.
The think-tank also warned that the UK scheme could lead to lower carbon permit prices elsewhere in Europe – and so do nothing to ease pollution.
Andrew Pendleton, IPPR associate director, said: ‘The carbon price support scheme risks giving energy and climate change policy a bad name because it will do nothing to reduce carbon emissions while piling more cost on to the shoulders of already hard-pressed consumers in the UK.’
The think-tank report also said that because the floor price was announced in the Budget, it would be open to annual review – meaning it would not have the certainty needed by investors looking at putting money into low-carbon energy projects such as wind, wave and nuclear power.
The report suggests setting the floor price low to minimise its impact and urges ministers to encourage European countries to introduce similar measures.
Confining the tax to Britain could be an ‘inexcusable’ waste of £1billion,’ Mr Pendleton said.
The soaring cost of fuel means that 5.5million households are already living in fuel poverty —including two million pensioner households. This is compared to 1.4million households in 2004.
Earlier this month CBI director-general John Cridland said a trio of new carbon levies, including the carbon floor price, were ‘counterproductive’ and will make the UK’s steel and chemicals industries less competitive on the world stage. In a stinging attack, the head of Britain’s largest business lobby called for the Government to axe some climate change taxes and make energy-intensive businesses exempt from others.
The warning came days after former Cabinet Secretary Lord Turnbull said politicians should ‘stop frightening us and our children’ about global warming. He accused politicians and Whitehall mandarins of pandering to global warming ‘alarmists’ and consigning Britain to a future of inflated fuel bills.
The joke of ‘secure Britain
Britain’s powerlessness to control who has the right to be in this country was glaringly exposed last night by two extraordinary cases. In the first, an anti-Semitic preacher of hate whom the Home Secretary had banned from entering Britain was able to stroll in through Heathrow.
Last night, Raed Salah was giving a lecture organised by Islamist radicals to a large crowd in Leicester, and today he was due to speak at Westminster at the invitation of Left-wing Labour MPs.
In the second, a bombshell ruling by European judges blocked the deportation of some 200 Somali criminals back to their homeland. The Strasbourg court said the men, including drug dealers and serial burglars, might be persecuted in war-torn Somalia, and that they must be allowed to stay to protect their human rights.
So, irrespective of how heinous their crimes or the danger they present to the public, Britain has no power to expel them.
The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights stemmed from appeals against deportation by two asylum seekers convicted of a string of serious offences including burglary, making threats to kill and drug dealing. But it will now also apply to 214 other similar cases which have been lodged with the court using Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Article 3, which protects against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, is an ‘absolute’ right, meaning that it applies regardless of the offences committed.
The two men, who were both granted thousands in legal aid to fight their cases, will now be released from immigration detention centres and will be free to walk the streets. They were jointly awarded more than £20,000 for costs and expenses.
Critics accused the Government of rolling over to the demands of the court, and branded the Human Rights Act a ‘criminals’ charter’.
Backbench Tory MP Douglas Carswell said: ‘The pathetic truth is that we do not have control over our borders, and these cases quite clearly show that we do not control not only who comes in to the country but who we choose to remove.
‘My constituents do not want any more mealy-mouthed promises about getting a grip on this – they want to know what the Government is actually going to do. ‘Successive governments have given all the promises on immigration you would expect of a second-hand car salesman. Ministers now need to start actually delivering on real promises and real control over our borders.’
UK Independence Party MEP Gerard Batten said: ‘It is the absolute duty of the British Government to protect the lives and property of British citizens. ‘If foreign nationals prey on people here they should be sent home to where they came from – no ifs, no buts.’
He added: ‘For the European Court of Human Rights to give Britain orders is bad enough; knowing that the Government will roll over to their demands is worse. ‘This decision confirms that the Human Rights Act is a criminals’ charter.’
The case involves two Somalis whom ministers intended to return to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, because of their serial offending.
Abdisamad Adow Sufi, 24, entered the country illegally in 2003 using a fake passport. He claimed asylum on the grounds that he belonged to a minority clan persecuted by the Somali militia. His claim was rejected by officials and an appeal tribunal said his account was ‘not credible’.
Since then he has amassed a string of convictions for offences including burglary, fraud, making threats to kill, indecent exposure and theft.
The second Somali, drug addict Abdiaziz Ibrahim Elmi, 42, was granted asylum in 1988. Since then he has committed crimes including handling stolen goods, fraud, robbery, carrying a replica gun, perverting the course of justice, theft and dealing heroin and cocaine.
Attempts to deport him began in 2006 and his appeal was rejected by an immigration judge. A deportation order was stayed in 2007 pending the outcome of his Strasbourg case, and since then he has been convicted of possessing Class A drugs and charged with drug dealing.
The panel of seven judges ruled that because the level of violence in Mogadishu was so high there was a real risk of the men coming to harm. In a unanimous judgment, the court also rejected the argument the men could leave the capital and return to safer parts of the country.
The judges said Sufi could not join his relatives because they lived in an area controlled by a strict Islamic group. If returned, he could face punishment according to their code – also a breach of his rights. He would also be particularly vulnerable if forced to live in a refugee camp because of his ‘psychiatric illness’, the court said.
Elmi claimed he would be at risk of persecution if he moved to an area controlled by the same group, because he wore an earring, which might lead to them thinking he was gay. If they found out he was a drug addict and thief he could face amputation, public flogging or execution, he said.
The court ruled he had no experience of living in a strict Islamic area because he has been in this country for so long and would therefore be at risk of harm. The ruling said: ‘The court reiterated that the prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was absolute, irrespective of the victims’ conduct. ‘Consequently, the applicants’ behaviour, however undesirable or dangerous, could not be taken into account.’
The case will seriously hamper further attempts by ministers to deport foreign criminals, failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants back to Somalia. Last year just 35 were kicked out.
Around two thirds of the 214 other cases are thought to involve criminals. Others are failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: ‘We are very disappointed with the European Court’s decision and are considering our legal position. ‘This judgment does not stop us continuing to pursue the removal of foreign criminals who commit a serious crime, nor does it find that all Somalis are in need of international protection.’