You’ve been dumped: Family who fled the paradise of Burma and ended up in Illingworth

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall

A FAMILY who fled “beautiful” Burma and found themselves living on a council estate in Halifax had been dumped by the authorities, a judge said.

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall told Min Aung, 40: “I don’t wish to be rude about Halifax because I know it and love it dearly.

“But you were dumped in isolation in a council estate that was, for you, completely inappropriate.

“You had good relationships with your neighbours but you were estranged from your roots, vulnerable to bullying.”

The judge added: “A strategy must be found to help people like you move closer to other Burmese communities in this country.

“You clearly have been emotionally damaged. From being a wealthy, respectable businessman in Burma you had to flee to the UK because your wife criticised the Burmese generals and their cronies.

“You are a genuine asylum seeker and it was clear to everybody that you were, and I quote, ‘dumped’.”

A court heard that Aung, his wife and four children were sent to live in Furness Drive, Illingworth, after his wife hit out at the Burmese regime.

But Aung struggled to adapt to life here, turned to drink and argued with his family.

When the rows became intolerable, his family barricaded themselves in the front room away from him.

He then tried to start a fire. It caused little damage and no one was hurt.

But Aung was arrested and spent 169 days in prison. He admiited arson.

Judge Durham Hallsaid: “This case demonstrates without any doubt the fact that in the UK we so take for granted, and indeed completely abuse, the won freedoms that are part of our life – won by the actions of former generations who, in so many ways, were so much better than us.

“These freedoms include the taking without gratitude of benefit, treating care and protection as a right and, above all, the freedom to comment and usually that means to be downright rude about others and institutions and rules.

“We live in a democracy which is unique, even in Europe, for being honest, not corrupt and so on.

“We forget all that and that there are countries like Burma – one of the most beautiful countries in the world – in twhich society has none of these freedoms.

“You are a genuine asylum seeker and it was clear to everybody that you were, and I quote, ‘dumped’.

“You turned to drink and this offence, where you set fire pathetically to your accomodation, was a cry for help.

“The result has been you have been in custody in impossible circumstances, although I hope humanely treated, for 169 days.”

The judge made Aung subject to a community order with a two-year supervision requirement, even though guidelines say arsonists should be sent to prison.

“The prosecution have opened this case with great kindness and I take the view, encouraged and assisted by the Court of Appeal guidance, that in exceptional circumstances – which this, in my judgement, is clearly one – custody can be avoided.

“Normally courts must sentence people who set even small fires that may cause risk to life to a period of imprisonment.

“Believing that you have regained your balance, I give you the opportunity to help in the community.

“The purpose of this order is to help you regain your dignity and purpose.

“I don’t criticise my government at all. But they can’t just dump families in isolated circumstances.

“The order is to help you and your family move to a more satisfactory situation.”

He finished by telling Aung: “Please – don’t do it again.”

Via his interpretor: Aung replied: “I will never, ever, do this again.”