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Baroness Scotland fined for failing to follow own law

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Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, has been fined £5,000 for breaking the law on employment checks which she pushed through Parliament.

The country's top legal officer satisfied investigators that she did not employ the illegal immigrant knowingly but simply failed to make and keep copies of relevant documents as required by the law. The changes to immigration regulations were criticised at the time for putting an unfair burden on employers who had to take responsibility for checking staff.

The Baroness came a cropper by employing a cleaner and housekeeper originally from Tonga and failing to keep copies of her documents. A pledge of "full confidence" from prime minister Gordon Brown did little to allay fears that she faced the sack. She seems to have escaped that fate for now, although having a law-breaker in charge of government legal affairs does seem a little odd.

Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency Lin Homer said:

“Following an investigation into alleged illegal working the UK Border Agency will be imposing a civil penalty of £5,000 on Patricia Mawhinney (Baroness Scotland) as the employer of an individual who was not legally permitted to undertake work in the United Kingdom.

“The employer cooperated fully with the investigation, which was carried out in accordance with the Agency’s published code of practice on civil penalties for illegal working.

“Following the investigation, the UK Border Agency is satisfied that the employer did not knowingly employ an illegal worker. The UKBA is also satisfied that the employer took steps to check documents provided to her as proof of right to work in the UK. However, the law requires that employers must keep copies of documents proving the right to work in the UK and in this instance the employer failed to meet this requirement.

“Our priority in enforcement against employers is to identify employers who knowingly flout the rules, often on a continual basis and often on a large scale. However, under immigration law any employer found to have employed people with no right to work here can face a civil penalty.

“A variable rate of fine can be imposed depending on the circumstances of a case. Employers who co-operate with investigations, as in this case, who have no previous record of employing people illegally, or who can show they made some effort to check the status of an employee, are not normally fined at the maximum level of £10,000.

“In this case we have assessed the appropriate level of penalty to be £5,000. The fine is in line with the level of fines imposed on other employers.

“This case serves to remind all employers that they are responsible not only for checking the immigration status of their staff but for retaining proof of the documents checked.

Where illegal workers are knowingly employed we will take action, and employers could face a criminal prosecution or a civil penalty.

“Guidance on preventing illegal working can be found on the UK Border Agency website, www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/employingmigrants or by calling the UK Border Agency Employers Helpline on 0300 123 4699.

“The wider investigation is ongoing.”

We've reproduced the statement in full because the Home Office has been getting sulky when we edit the dull bits out of their canned remarks. We asked what the last line meant but they were not able to elaborate. ®

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