Last updated at 11:10 PM on 20th December 2011
A murder victim’s family who want to know if the man who shot their son is in Britain legally have been refused the information – to protect the killer’s privacy.
Wintworth and Lurline Deslandes are desperate to confirm suspicions that Saturday Hassan is a foreign national so they can ensure he is deported if he is released from jail.
But they have been told the killer – who shot their public schoolboy son Darren in the head after being thrown out of the family’s pub – must agree to details of his immigration status being handed over to their MP.
Officials said this ‘personal information’ needed to be ‘safeguarded’ and cited the Data Protection Act in their refusal to hand it over.
The UK Border Agency also insisted it needed ‘written authority’ from Hassan himself, who is serving life with a minimum term of 37 years, before any details could be released.
The Deslandes family are enraged by the response and their case has sparked a furious reaction at Westminster, with the couple’s MP branding the decision ‘ridiculous’.
Their son, a former Dulwich College schoolboy who attended Brunel University and worked for a housing association, was due to be married to Abigail Beresford earlier this year.
Last night Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks said: ‘The logic of that answer is that I should write a nice letter saying, “Dear murderer, would you give me permission to find out if you are a foreign national, so I can make sure in the future you are deported”.’
The former Labour business minister added: ‘It’s ridiculous. The family of the murdered man had a suspicion for some reason he might have been a foreign national and it didn’t come out in court.
‘My experience as an MP is that if you find out some criminal is a foreign national, I do my best to pressure the Home Office to check the person out. That’s one reason an MP should be able to find out.’
Hassan, 31, was thrown out of the Deslandes family’s pub – the Newton Arms in Croydon, South London – on New Year’s Eve 2009 after threatening a customer.
Minutes later he returned with a semi-automatic weapon, firing at Darren, 34, and his younger brother Junior, who had evicted him.
Darren was shot in the head and died instantly. Junior, 26, was hit three times in the head, neck and shoulder. He was left critically ill but survived.
Mr Deslandes – who bought the pub in 1999 after working as an insurance underwriter in the City of London for 25 years – was hit over the head with the butt of the gun.
Last year Hassan was found guilty of murder and attempted murder at the Old Bailey and jailed.
Judge David Paget said: ‘What you did has taken the life of a thoroughly good and worthy young man with his life before him and has devastated the lives of the whole Deslandes family, of Darren Deslandes’s fiancée and I dare say of others near and dear to them.’
The family insist the question of Hassan’s immigration status never came up at the trial.
During the trial, Mr Wicks wrote to the Home Office asking for information on the killer’s immigration status after the family told him they believed Hassan was in the country illegally, having arrived here from Guyana in South America.
On December 2 last year the UK Border Agency wrote back. A letter signed by the then chief executive, Lin Homer, refused to divulge any details about Hassan’s past.
She wrote: ‘I hope that you will appreciate that in order to safeguard an individual’s personal information and comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, we are limited in what information we can provide when a request is made by someone, such as your constituent, who is not the subject of the application. Except in a few exceptional circumstances, we must ensure we have the written authority of the individual concerned before the information is divulged to anyone else.’
It also said the reply was a ‘proportionate response to protecting the privacy of the individual’.
Last night Mrs Deslandes, 57, said: ‘I do not see why he should have any data protection. He has killed someone. We are the victims and no one is there to protect us. He should be removed from the country.’
Mr Deslandes, 60, who is terminally ill with lung cancer, added: ‘He shot both of my sons and he tried to kill me as well, but he ran out of bullets.’
Raising the case in the in the House of Commons on Monday during a debate about the deportation of foreign nationals, Mr Wicks branded the decision ‘total nonsense’.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said he ‘rather agreed’ and described the situation as ‘absurd’. But officials admitted he was constrained by the Data Protection Act.
Last night a Home Office official said: ‘The minister is able to discuss more in some cases but the Data Protection Act is what it is and he can’t act above that.’
Mr Wicks raised the issue during a Commons debate on foreign criminals after a leaked Home Office report revealed foreign nationals allowed to remain in the UK have committed horrendous crimes including murder, rape and kidnap.
Ministers have pledged to increase the number of foreign nationals sent home but are being thwarted by the Human Rights Act, especially Article 8 which gives individuals a right to a ‘private and family life’.