Race Matters

The case of Osime Brown: the young autistic man facing deportation

Despite being autistic with high support needs, 22-year-old Osime Brown faces deportation to his birthplace of Jamaica. Raoul Walawalker, a freelance writer who also writes for the Immigration Advice Service – a firm of UK and Ireland immigration lawyers – delves into the case ahead of an imminent verdict.

 

With the result of a judicial review into Osime’s Brown deportation order expected on Wednesday, you can imagine how tense a time this is for the young Black 22-year-old man and his family. Despite being autistic, in 2018 Brown was imprisoned for a crime he allegedly did not commit. Since his release, he has had his right to remain in the country stripped, and now lives under the threat of deportation to Jamaica, where his survival chances are slim to non-existent.

Legal sources have suggested the upcoming review might have strong considerations of articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and perhaps Equality Act arguments too.

The judicial review would assess that a decision to deport him is “reasonable, rational or lawful,” explains Sarah Hemingway, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers.

She principally points out the significance of Article 8, which enshrines the right to respect for one's "private and family life, home and correspondence”.

Brown has lived in Dudley, UK, as his only home since the age of four. He’s a vulnerable person with learning difficulties, relies on his mother as his carer, and has high support needs. Hemingway adds that, in accordance with Article 8, these factors must be considered in any decision over what happens to him next.

In the meantime, campaign groups assisting the family have been stepping up efforts to bring awareness to a case which has seemed replete with flawed justice from outset, and which could very well end in a tragedy depending on this week's decision.

Last night, campaign groups such as Free Osime Brown and No More Exclusions organised an online rally and Twitter storm, with a number of well-known charities and public figures joining in.

Last December, over 100 public figures had written to the Home Office urging for the deportation to be stopped, and physical protests in London and elsewhere took place on Saturday with attendees and speakers such as Labour MP John McDonell. Journalist and activist Owen Jones also recently tweeted: “Osime Brown is a 22-year-old with autism and a reading age of between 6 and 7. He faces deportation to a country he knows nothing about. I'm proud to speak at this demo in his support on Saturday at 12pm. Please spread the word.” 

A petition asking for the deportation of Brown to be halted has now been signed by over 400,000 people, and while the judicial review is focused on the policy and judgement of deporting him now, it’s still worth recapping just how overwhelmingly unjust the charges against him have been.

Brown was imprisoned for over two years for the theft of a mobile phone, which witnesses confirm that he didn’t steal. Brown’s lawyers and family say his charges were made through the increasingly controversial law of joint enterprise – which in recent history has been responsible for a number of wrong convictions.

Joint enterprise law is a common law doctrine that enables a court to convict a person that didn’t commit a crime but may have been present and aware that a crime would happen, explains Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGba), a campaign group highlighting the law’s failings.

And a key problem and concern over the doctrine is over its misuse, by which people who may have been within a group or present at a crime – but unaware of an intention to commit a crime – have been prosecuted for that crime. This would seem to apply in the case of Brown.

“With help from the media, there is a shared incorrect narrative that the joint enterprise doctrine is about gangs, broken Britain and the alleged feral youth that needs to be served justice,” says JENGba on its website.

“This doctrine is a tool used by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to imprison people to mandatory life sentences for crimes committed by others.”

“People can be wrongly charged and convicted when they have been within close proximity of a crime, have a random connection with the actual perpetrator or via text or mistaken phone call or they might not even have been at the scene of the crime.”

Along with spending over two years in prison (far longer than white counterparts, according to campaigners) where his mental health can be shown to have deteriorated drastically, Brown has been rendered even more dependent on family due to new mental health problems.

Activists and journalists can, and have, already highlighted how the situation of Osime also epitomises the institutional flaws of a system that’s systemically racist and ableist too – in a country where a person with learning difficulties can be imprisoned, allegedly abused and driven to self-harm in the process. We know that Brown’s case is far from unique.

But for now, the focus will be on the decision over his deportation on Wednesday, which we can only hope will be in his favour.

 

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