14/01/2016 15:20 GMT | Updated 14/01/2017 05:12 GMT

Deporting Italian-Born Burglar Not Justified, Appeal Judges Rule

An Italian-born burglar who has lived in the UK almost continuously for over 60 years and become "a home-grown criminal" cannot be deported back to Italy despite his "reprehensible" record, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Benedetto Vassallo, now 68, who arrived in the UK with his parents as a young child in 1952, has been convicted on 31 separate occasions in respect of 68 offences mainly for dishonesty, including numerous burglaries.

But the appeal judges upheld a first-tier immigration tribunal decision that deporting Vassallo, now judged to be at low risk of reoffending, was not justified under European immigration regulations.

The tribunal found Vassallo had been in the country for so long that he was in fact "a home-grown criminal".

The tribunal said his "reprehensible criminal offending" was "a product of his childhood and upbringing in the United Kingdom and the choices he has made".

The appeal judges rejected a challenge by Home Secretary Theresa May against the first-tier tribunal decision and an upper tribunal ruling that later upheld it.

The judges heard Vassallo had kept his Italian nationality even though he had married a British woman and had two children who were also British citizens.

His criminal activities since 1963 had resulted in prison sentences ranging in length from 14 days to four-and-a-half years.

Vassallo was also convicted of burglary, criminal damage and a public order offence while living in Sweden and Switzerland in 1984/85.

The Home Secretary decided in August 2013 to make a deportation order against Vassallo, of Folkestone, Kent, on the grounds that it was necessary "in the interests of public policy or public security" after he was sentenced in May 2012 to 29 months imprisonment for a burglary committed at the home of an elderly couple.

But his legal challenge against deportation was allowed by the first-tier tribunal in a decision involving complex issues of European immigration law.

The tribunal was upheld by the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) even though it found the first-tier panel had made errors of law in reaching its conclusions.

Government lawyers took the case to the appeal court, but three judges - Lord Justice Richards, Lady Justice Macur and Mr Justice Cranston - also agreed Vassallo could not be removed.

Lord Justice Richards said the upper tribunal was wrong to uphold the first-tier tribunal's finding that Vassallo had acquired a right of permanent residence in the UK.

But, in cases like Vassallo's, deportation could only take place if a person's conduct represented "a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society".

The judge said that requirement had not been met. And Vassallo's age, length of residence in the UK and the extent of his integration in the UK meant deportation would be disproportionate.