A call has been made to ensure that a Romanian national who trafficked and exploited his fellow countrymen is deported from Northern Ireland after his sentence is served.
Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said she would like to see a “guarantee” that Ioan Lacatus will be kicked out of the UK upon his release.
Lacatus, 33, was told on October 7 that he would spend 15 months in jail and another 15 on licence for the array of trafficking offences to which he pleaded guilty.
In addition the conviction of Lacatus (who had previous convictions in France and Italy for theft before coming to Northern Ireland seven years ago) activated a suspended sentence which he received for fraud in 2014 – earning him another 15 months in jail on top of his trafficking sentence.
The News Letter was told by the Department of Justice that deportations were a matter for the sentencing court, and for the Home Office.
The Courts Service told the News Letter that “the issue of deportation was not addressed before the court”.
As to whether the judge had authority to ask for Lacatus’ removal, the Courts Service said it “cannot provide advice on whether the judge has power under the relevant legislation to order deportation in this case”.
When the Home Office was asked if he would be deported, it said that it could not comment on a specific case, but added: “This Government puts the rights of the British public before those of criminals.
“Foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.
“All foreign nationals offenders given a custodial sentence are considered for deportation.”
Lacatus pocketed the wages of 12 workers whom he had brought to the Province.
They had found factory work via a recruitment agency.
They were ordered by him to live in a three-bedroomed house in Charles Street, Portadown, and not to leave the house or talk to anyone.
He in turn brought them meagre rations of food to eat.
Mrs Dobson, UUP MLA for Upper Bann, described him as “an evil and ruthless person who exploited vulnerable people for his own gain”, and who had “no place in our community”.
She said: “I am disappointed that the Home Office are unable to confirm immediate deportation to enable him to serve out his sentence in his home country.”
She added that the Home Office should “at the very least guarantee it after he has served his sentence”.
She concluded: “He must not be allowed to continue to commit his crimes and prey on the vulnerable on British soil.”
When the PSNI was asked whether it had questioned or taken any action against either employers of the trafficked workers, or the landlord or owner of the property in which they lived, the police said that they would “not be commenting further on the detail of the investigation”.