There were 114,000 convictions of UK residents for TV licence fee evasion in 2019 (Ministry of Justice data). In contrast there have been less than 50 convictions for illegal entry or overstaying under Section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 in each of the past four years (2018-2021).
The statute book is full to bursting with criminal offences relating to immigration control, from entering the UK illegally to renting property to an illegal migrant. However, most are rarely prosecuted, with an average of just 625 prosecutions per year between 2017 and 2019.
And the government said in a recent policy announcement that it plans to toughen the maximum sentences for illegally entering the UK (see statement, p.4).
Yet many people will ask – what is the point of raising the sentence if prosecutors are not going to charge people once they are caught.
There were nearly 50,000 illegal entrants detected in the UK between 2018 and 2021 (see our brief). And there were between 60,000 and 65,000 reports of immigration and commodity abuse by members of the public to the Home Office each year during that period (Home Office statistics).
There was only a 14% conviction rate for offences prosecuted at Magistrates’ Court between 2014 and 2018 (with only an average of 69 people found guilty each year despite 500 prosecutions at that level each year).
And a new parliamentary answer to a question by our President – Lord Green of Deddington – shows that there were only an average of 71 people charged each year between 2016 and 2020 under a statutory provision which makes illegal entry and overstaying a criminal offence (Section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 – see full answer below).
We need to increase sentences for illegal immigration – it is harmful to the country and a big threat to public safety – but one does have to wonder what is the point if the authorities are not even going to pursue prosecution or secure convictions.
Parliamentary answer to Lord Green of Deddington – answered on 7 April 2021.
The Lord Green of Deddington KCMG (C/B): (HL14496) To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many (1) arrests, (2) prosecutions, and(3) convictions, there werefor offences committed under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 in each of the last five years.
Lord Greenhalgh (Con):