LONDON // British government lawyers will launch a last-ditch attempt in January to deport a failed asylum seeker from Iraq who left a 12-year-old English girl dying under the wheels of his car.
The prime minister, David Cameron, expressed his "great anger" this month that Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, 33, an Iraqi Kurd, had won the right to stay in the country after an immigration tribunal ruled on his appeal.
Ibrahim was denied political asylum in 2002 after arriving in Britain hidden in the back of a lorry a year earlier. He was disqualified from driving when he left Amy Houston dying under his car after he crashed into her just yards from her home in Blackburn, in north-west England, in November, 2003. He ran away, leaving Amy conscious and in pain. Six hours later, her father had to make the decision of having his only child's life support machine switched off.
Following Amy's death, Ibrahim served two months of a four-month prison sentence after being charged with leaving the scene of an accident. There were no witnesses to contradict Ibrahim's claim that the girl had suddenly walked into the path of his Rover.
During the subsequent battle to have him deported, Ibrahim compiled a string of criminal convictions, including another one for driving while disqualified in 2006. He was also arrested by police on a range of charges including burglary, theft, harassment and possession of drugs.
But an immigration panel ruled earlier this year that he should not be deported because he had fathered two children - now aged three and four - by an English woman and that to remove him from the country would contravene his right to a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.
This month the immigration tribunal judges upheld the panel's decision, sparking fury among politicians and the media.
Mr Cameron told a press conference: "My personal response is one of great anger that this is allowed to happen. Here we have an Iraqi asylum seeker convicted of an offence that led to the death of a child and yet we are being told that there is no way that this person can be deported to Iraq.
"Britain has spent billions of pounds and lost many, many very good people - some killed, some wounded - to make Iraq a safer, more stable country. We should not be in a position where, having done all these things, we are simply told it is not possible to return a person there."
Mr Cameron added that the European Convention on Human Rights said nothing about deportation, and that legal interpretations by judges and lawyers sometimes "fly in the face of common sense". He said that he hoped "very much that the UK Border Agency will be able to appeal" the judges' decision. Lawyers for the agency are now preparing to do just that with the launch of an appeal in the High Court in London in January.
Amy's father, Paul, 41, has conducted a seven-year campaign to get Ibrahim deported and, last month, submitted a letter to the immigration judges asking them to bring his "years of hell" to an end.
"On the evening of November 23, 2003, Mr Ibrahim struck Amy. He didn't kill her outright, she was still conscious," he wrote. "She was fully aware of what was happening around her even though she had the full weight of the engine block of the car on top of her, she was crying because she was frightened and in a lot of pain ... he could have at least tried to help.
"Amy suffered for six hours before the doctors advised me to switch off the life-support machine. It was highly unlikely she would survive and if she was to live would be a 'cabbage'.
"The image of Amy taking her final breath, dying a foot away from me as I sat by her bedside holding her hand praying for a miracle, will stay with me till the day I die."
The decision to allow Ibrahim to stay was described as "sickening" by British newspapers. The immigration minister, Damian Green, said in a statement: "We are extremely disappointed at the tribunal's decision and are appealing. He was convicted of committing an offence that led to the tragic death of a 12-year-old child and it is our view that he should be removed."
The incident has also led to a growing number of the government's backbench MPs to demand the scrappping of the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European convention.
They argue it should be replaced by a specific, UK-wide Bill of Rights.