The flight was originally meant to be carrying 42 foreign criminals convicted of serious offences including rape, manslaughter and dealing class A drugs.
But 25 had to be removed after a Court of Appeal ruling last night declared that it would be unlawful to deport anyone who had been denied access to proper legal advice because of deficient phone signals at the detention centre where they were being held.
Those who escaped deportation today included one offender who was jailed for manslaughter, seven convicted for violent offences and one imprisoned for a firearms offence. Another two had been guilty of rape or a sexual offence.
Those who were deported included at least one rapist and several convicted of violent offences. All had been jailed for at least a year. The cumulative total sentence for all 17 offenders ejected was 75 years, plus one life sentence, in a reflection of the gravity of their crimes.
The ruling that led to the reprieve, issued by Lady Justice Simler, produced fury in Downing Street today with one Whitehall source telling the Standard that “molten anger is apt” as a way of describing the mood. One lobby journalist tweeted: “Molten anger in No10 about court intervention in Jamaica extradition case. Rumblings that ‘this should be the case that brings the judicial review regime tumbling down’.”
The anger came shortly after Chancellor Sajid Javid had delivered a robust defence of the Government’s decision to press ahead with the deportation in the face of protests from campaigners who said that it was unfair to eject any who had come here as children.
Labour also criticised the deportation but Mr Javid today insisted that it was “absolutely right” because all those on board were “all foreign national offenders” who had committed serious crimes.
He said they were being sent to their home country to protect the British public. “We will always do what we can to protect the public,” he said. “These are all foreign national offenders — they have all received custodial sentences of 12 months or more.
“It is absolutely right, when they have served their sentence, that we send them out of the country because they are not British nationals, they are not members of the Windrush generation, they are all foreign national offenders.”
The dramatic scaling back of the deportation followed the ruling that mobile phone outages had prevented 25 others due for deportation from having access to legal advice while in detention.
She said those detainees should not be removed unless the Home Office was satisfied they “had access to a functioning, non-O2 Sim card on or before February 3”.
Bella Sankey, of the campaign group Detention Action, said that removing those detainees covered by the order would have meant the Home Office was breaking the law but claimed that the entire system needed to be reformed. “Britain is better than this,” she added.
Campaigners have criticised the deportation flight, arguing that some of the foreign nationals being kicked out of the country had come to the UK as children and had no links with Jamaica.
The flight sparked a protest outside Downing Street last night, which ended up with demonstrators blocking the roads around Parliament Square.
There were also heated scenes in the House of Commons yesterday as Labour MPs questioned the Government’s actions.
There were shouts of “shame” as Home Secretary Priti Patel left the chamber, leaving junior minister Kevin Foster to respond.
Mr Foster insisted no British nationals were on the flight and said deportation rules were applied on “the criminality, not the nationality, of the offender”, adding that the crimes of those earmarked for removal at the time included “everything from sex offending, serious drug trafficking offences, violent offences, firearms offences”.