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EXCLUSIVE: Refugee who dodged deportation after prison blunder went on to become county lines drugs

A REFUGEE who dodged deportation after he was released early from prison by mistake went on to become a county lines drugs boss, Essex News and Investigations can reveal. Iraqi national Serook Saeed, 33, (pictured above) should have been deported seven years ago, but managed to get the order quashed after it emerged he was wrongly released early from a prison sentence for dealing Class A drugs, after the prison service wrongly believed his conviction had been quashed. The scandal can be revealed as Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged new laws to remove foreign criminals and bar their entry in the wake of the Reading stabbings. Mrs Patel said she would “accelerate” legislation to speed up deportations of "anyone who abuses our hospitality" following the terror attack in Reading by a suspected Libyan asylum-seeker, in which three people died. In a Commons statement on the knife attack, she said: “The Government’s position is if you abuse our hospitality and commit crimes in the UK, we will do everything in our power to remove you." Saeed avoided deportation, and was even granted asylum, after the prison he was in freed him early because it wrongly believed a Court of Appeal decision quashed his conviction. But, although his conviction was downgraded to possession, it later emerged he should have served the full sentence then been deported. Saeed is now back behind bars after being caged for four years at Maidstone Crown Court after it emerged he went on to head a county lines gang running heroin and cocaine from London into Kent.

VOW: Priti Patel has pledged to speed up deportations of foreign criminals (BBC)

He was one of 18 jailed county lines bosses whose names were released by the Met Police to highlight a six-month operation it led with other forces being affected by gangs transporting drugs from the capital into county towns. The operation, which targeted those controlling the drugs lines, rather than the street dealers they use, led to all 18 pleading guilty without the need for a trial. A Kent Police spokesman said: "He was arrested after the car he was driving was stopped by Kent Police officers on the M2 near Medway. "He was found to be in possession of 150 wraps of cocaine and heroin. "He pleaded guilty to one charge of supplying cocaine and to one charge of supplying heroin following his arrest on November 8 2019." Essex News and Investigations has learned that Saeed should have again faced deportation in 2013 when then Home Secretary Theresa May refused his subsequent asylum application and ordered his deportation due to the earlier drugs conviction. Saeed from New Malden, south London, came to the UK as a refugee from Iraq aged 12 in 1999.

FAILURE: Theresa May tried and failed to get Saeed deported in 2013 (Theresa May/Twitter)

He was jailed for 42 months in July 2009 for possession of cocaine with intent to supply and affray. Officers found drugs, cash and a dedicated drugs mobile phone line when he was arrested. Saeed appealed against the conviction and on July 13 2010 the Court of Appeal dropped the conviction to possession of Class A drugs, but did not alter his sentence. However, staff at HMP Wandsworth, where he was doing his sentence, wrongly believed the appeal decision quashed his sentence and released him that day. He went on to later make the asylum application, which was refused by Mrs May in July 2013, when she also issued a deportation order. It was during his asylum application that it emerged Saeed should have served the full sentence, which would have meant at least another nine months in jail if he was released half way through, and that he should have been considered for deportation at that point. Saeed appealed the asylum refusal and deportation order and was successful in February 2014 when a first-tier immigration tribunal panel said he had "virtually no links to Iraq" and would be in danger if sent there. The Home Office tried to appeal this, but at the upper tribunal in June 2014 Judge Nathan Goldstein threw it out due to the series of errors, meaning Saeed dodged deportation and was granted asylum.

SCANDALOUS: David Spencer of the Centre for Crime Prevention (David Spender/Linkedin)

It is not clear if Saeed will face a new deportation order once he is released from the current sentence, due to his asylum status. The Home Office will not comment on individual cases, but said: "Foreign national offenders should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them." Details of the blunder came as it also emerged this month that around six foreign criminals a day are being released from prison instead of being deported. There were 2,152 offenders, including killers, sex offenders, robbers and drug dealers, freed after finishing jail terms last year - a 70 per cent rise in just four years. David Spencer, research director at think tank the Centre for Crime Prevention: "It is scandalous that there are thousands of foreign criminals living freely in our communities when they should long since have been deported to their own countries."

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