Should Charles Taylor, the 58-year-old former President of Liberia, be convicted of war crimes at his trial at The Hague, he will spend his jail term here at a cost to the taxpayer of £70,000 a year. Other criminals who, it was suggested, could follow him include warlords such as the leaders of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.
Critics will say that Britain can ill afford the cost of jailing international criminals when prisons are full to bursting, and the Home Office is already under attack for its inability to track foreign prisoners convicted in Britain. The Prison Service is on the verge of a record of more than 77,823 inmates in the 139 jails in England and Wales. But ministers said that they wanted to prove their commitment to international justice, and Foreign and Commonwealth Office sources described the move as an “invest-to-save” policy for a country in which Britain has spent £60 million trying to restore order in the past five years.
Britain has been heavily involved in peacekeeping in Sierra Leone, where Mr Taylor is accused of directing rebel fighters during the civil war that left hundreds of thousands of people dead.