A British man convicted of murder is launching a legal action against the Home Office after he was wrongly deported to Jamaica.
Richard Wallace, whose parents came to Britain as part of the Windrush generation in the 1950s, was born in Paddington in London in 1969. In 1998 he was convicted of murdering a man working at a takeaway in south London.
After serving his sentence he was incorrectly classed as Jamaican, in what Wallace believes was a case of mistaken identity, and deported to the Caribbean island in 2015.
He returned to the UK on his British passport in 2018. But on his return he was accused of using his own passport fraudulently and was jailed for two years. He was released in October 2020 after DNA tests with other British members of his family proved him to be a match with them.
He told the Guardian that his treatment had left him “completely broken” and that he believed as a black man he was a victim of “institutional racism”.
Wallace’s solicitor, Naga Kandiah, is launching a legal action against the Home Office and other government bodies. “Serious maladministration and incompetence led to a British citizen being deported under a different name and falsely imprisoned. He has suffered huge injustice and hardship over many years,” Kandiah said.
Wallace spent his early years in the UK with his father, a carpenter and religious minister, and his mother, an NHS nurse. They then moved to Jamaica with his family. He returned to the UK with his British passport at the age of 18 to continue his education. When he was convicted of murder, a tariff of 20 years was set by the home secretary.
It was later reduced by a year by a judge who said he had made “exceptional” progress in prison. Along with many educational qualifications including an Open University degree he also worked as a peer tutor, intervened to prevent another prisoner from taking his own life and did charity work.
“I took responsibility for the crime I committed. It was a tragedy and the most horrible time of my life. I decided I wanted to spend my time in prison purposefully,” Wallace said.
But he told the Guardian he believed he ended up being wrongly deported to Jamaica because officials confused him with somebody else. The Home Office declined to comment on this claim.
“I told them dozens of times that I was Richard Wallace, a British citizen. But they didn’t listen to me,” he said.
At the conclusion of Wallace’s prison sentence he was taken to Colnbrook immigration detention centre near Heathrow airport. “By then I just wanted to get out of captivity after all my years in prison. It was horrible and unjust. I was in a very low state of mind. I felt hopeless and powerless and I didn’t resist being deported to Jamaica.”
Wallace says he struggled to survive in Jamaica. He managed to make a living by cooking food in a shop and for much of his time in Jamaica slept rough on the floor of the shop.
Wallace is trying to rebuild his life in the UK and has set up a catering business specialising in north African and Caribbean food called Richphire Etrez. He also mentors young people at risk of getting involved with knife crime in south London.
“All of this has been so traumatic for me,” he said. “The authorities wore me down and they broke me. I don’t believe this injustice would have happened to me if I was white. They would have said: ‘he’s one of ours’. I’ve experienced institutional racism throughout. One prison officer called me a ‘monkey’ but when I complained nothing was done.”
The Home Office issued Wallace with a new British passport in 2021 after admitting losing the British passport he used to returned from Jamaica in 2018.
Internal Home Office files seen by the Guardian say it is “very likely that the status of the document which has been recorded as a ‘fraudulently obtained document’ is also incorrect as we know that the passenger using the passport was Richard David Wallace.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”2023-03-19T13:42:38Z dg43tfdfdgfd