So, here’s an unpopular opinion to release into the world:

I don’t see what Byron is supposed to have done wrong.

The gourmet burger chain – previously thrust into the media spotlight as George Osborne’s late-night indulgence of choice – has enjoyed 24 hours of social media’s most vitriolic virtue signalling after 35 of its migrant workers were found to lack the right to work, having, it appears, secured employment through the use of falsified identity documents.

The circumstances in which this came to light are unclear, but in any event Byron cooperated with the Home Office, and consequently the workers were, on 4 July this year, arrested and detained. Some have subsequently apparently been deported.

Not a Byron burger
Not a Byron burger

The exact circumstances have not been confirmed, but a number of outlets have suggested that Byron hand-delivered their workers to the relevant enforcement and prosecutorial authorities by organising a “training day” at which, instead of PowerPoint slides of Double Bacon Cheeses and courgette fries, they were greeted by immigration officials. Byron has released a statement as follows:


But as with all such modern tales, we are beyond truth. What matters, the narrative splutters, is that the big mean corporate baddie collaborated with the feds and sold out its poor, exploited workforce, some of whom had devoted years of faultless service, in what must only be characterised as an act proximate to a hate crime, and must be duly sanctioned in the court of public opinion, boycotted by all right thinking people, its CEO dragged naked through the streets of Shoreditch smeared in burger sauce and pickle juice.

Piling in with the rallying cry of the intellectually dispossessed, deputy leader of the Greens, Amelia Womack, opined that “the bosses at Byron should be utterly ashamed of themselves for turning these people’s lives upside down”.

To which I, as an inhabitant of those rather less excitable courts of law, would respectfully say this:

Your outrage is mystifying. Or, at best, utterly misdirected.

Byron, like any employer – nay, like any company or individual based in this country – is required to comply with the law. It hurts to start with such a facile point, but needs, it appears, must.

And the law says at least two rather important things in this context. Firstly, that it is a criminal offence – punishable by an unlimited fine and up to 5 years in prison – for a person or a company employing someone knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the employee is disqualified from employment by reason of their immigration status. That’s not Byron’s company handbook talking – that’s sections 21 and 22 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, as enacted by our democratically elected Parliament. If you find out that you have accidentally employed someone without the right to work, and you continue to employ them, you are committing a crime.

Also the position, with reference I’m afraid to that same unfashionable commitment to “the rule of law”, is this: those workers, if employed on the basis of fraudulent identification documents, may have committed criminal offences contrary to section 4 of the Identity Documents Act 2010. And that’s before you throw in the Fraud Act 2006 for good measure.

Now there may be an explanation. This could be a misunderstanding. Some documents may in fact be genuine. Or it may be that these workers, like many clients I have represented, will say that they themselves were hoodwinked by chancers in their home countries who sold them what they believed to be a genuine “right to work” package. In which case every sympathy must be extended to them. But the fault for that state of affairs is not Byron’s.

There may, of course, be an alternative narrative that has plainly escaped those who say, with a straight face, that Byron should have simply tipped off their workforce and let them loose into the night, rather than dob them in to the pigs. Putting aside that those Byron managers who did so would potentially find themselves before a Crown Court for perverting the course of justice, this bold suggestion starts with an enormous, unforgivable assumption about the history of the people concerned. Many undocumented migrants arrive on our shores as a result of human trafficking and exploitation. Where they are packed, twelve, thirteen, twenty to a bedroom in a small terraced house by their unscrupulous, violent gangster sponsors, who take each week’s wages as protection money and exploit them physically, financially and sexually every single day.

None of us has a clue whether that applies to any of those workers. But – and I sound my “unpopular defence of immigration laws” warning klaxon – that is one of the mischiefs that immigration laws, and the requiring of documentation and the right to remain and work, are designed to combat. That’s not a fig leaf – that is fact. I have defended and prosecuted enough of these tragic cases to tell you with authority that there are a good many people whose lives have been saved by immigration enforcement officials. And one or more of those could have been among the Byron workers.

But, and this is really the point – we just don’t know. Any or none of the above might apply. All we know is that Byron were informed of circumstances which caused them to believe that they, and their workforce, were at risk of having committed a criminal offence. And they cooperated with the authorities. The only alternatives, of turning a blind eye, or of sending the workers out into the world with a nod and a wink, may have satisfied the appetites of the Twitter hordes unaware of and unwilling to acquaint themselves with law or reason, but the reality is that in so doing Byron would have been passing the problem on to the next employer to be defrauded and exposed to prosecution, or, even worse, releasing vulnerable, exploited human beings back into the grasping hands of those who would do them harm. As well as, of course, exposing Byron and its lawful employees to risk of prosecution and, ultimately, imprisonment.

This is not to defend the principle of immigration controls. You want to campaign for global freedom of movement under the banner that “people aren’t illegal”? Sounds good to me. But we have rules that have been enacted by Parliament. And if you don’t like those rules, your recourse is the democratic process. Not ill-thought-out hate campaigns and playground chants of “tattle tale” against people or companies who, far from “making people illegal”, are simply obeying the law.


UPDATE: Matters have progressed since this post was first published. There have been vigilante acts of vandalism, threats and abuse directed towards Byron for their perceived complicity in enforcing inhumane immigration law, but as yet I have not heard a single sensible explanation for the rage. I would recommend the comments below (in particular Oliver’s), and summarise the position as I see it:

1. Byron employed workers who were unlawfully working. That is agreed. The Home Office’s position is that Byron were duped by false identification documents when they conducted the checks required by law when employing a person. I can tell you from professional experience that fake ID documents can nowadays be of very high quality. It is easy to get a NI number with these documents, and there is nothing unusual about tax and NI having been paid on their behalf. It happens in most cases I see. If Byron hadn’t checked properly, or if they were obviously fakes, it is to me implausible that the Home Office would not make an example of them by prosecuting.

2. All we know of the circumstances of the Home Office becoming involved is what Byron and the Home Office have said, namely that it was the HO who contacted Byron first. Legally, therefore, Byron’s options were immediately singular. From that first point, Byron was under a legal obligation to cooperate. It had to supply its workers’ documents, and, when the documents were confirmed as fake, from that point onwards a criminal investigation was in effect active. If Byron had at any point tipped off the workers as to HO suspicions, the individual doing the tipping off would be liable to prosecution for perverting the course of justice, or at best assisting an offender. Any non-cooperation with what was not only an immigration but also a criminal matter risked not only Byron’s commercial reputation, but the liberty of the managers or staff who obstructed the investigation.

3. The “above and beyond” argument. By trapping the workers in the way reported, Byron acted as an executive arm of the state. They didn’t need to. They could have told the Home Office that they were not willing to facilitate the peaceful apprehending of their workers. This is the common refrain. And yes, they could have done. But to what effect? To do so would have been to invite a  raid, unpleasant and disorderly for all staff and customers, to the same ultimate effect. It’s not as if Byron could have tipped off the workers, as per 2 above. One perspective is “above and beyond”. The other is “agreeing to the most peaceful resolution of the inevitable”.

4. The only interpretation of events that justifies anger, that I can see is this: Byron deliberately hired illegal workers and shopped them in as part of a Faustian pact with the HO to avoid prosecution. This would be outrageous. But there is simply no evidence that this is the case. I would suggest that this theory appears odd on all counts – why would Byron risk prosecution by knowingly hiring unlawful workers at market rate? Why would the HO pass up the deterrent benefits of prosecuting a well-known employer for the sake of catching 35 people? – but even if plausible, there is no evidence. By all means, people can question and investigate and report their findings. But there is no safe or rational basis for concluding, as many seemingly have, that this is what has happened.

5. Anyone calling for Byron to defy an unjust law in order to take a “principled stand” against the (very real) injustices concerning immigration laws and the treatment of detainees, is calling not just for a rich company to risk a fine, but for actual people – shift managers, waiting staff – to risk prison. That is what your call amounts to. And if you feel so strongly that immigration laws call for this sort of self-sacrifice and courage, you should go do it yourself, rather than volunteer low-waged migrant proxies to take that risk for you. And it is certainly inexplicable to throw cockroaches at people when they don’t.

thesecretbarrister Contemplations, Lawsplaining, Politics

65 Replies

  1. I think the point is that many people find it hard to believe that Byron had no idea about their workers’ statuses until the Home Office came to them. The version of events I believe is as follows:

    1. Undocumented immigrant goes to Byron asking for a job.
    2. Byron sees immigrant’s papers, and since they employ large numbers of people who have recently entered the country (legally or otherwise) are canny enough to recognise the legit and dodgy papers themselves.
    3. Byron hires the worker anyway.
    4. Some years pass.
    5. The Home Office learns of the dodgy papers.
    6. Byron avoids a fine by handing the workers over.

    At this point, and I appreciate the above has a level of speculation in it, Byron has not complied with the law of the land. It has flouted the law when it can profit, and co-operated with the law only to avoid being punished for its prior – knowing – indiscretions. Furthermore, it makes me speculate as to why Byron hired workers it knew to be undocumented. Did it threaten them with Home Office notification in the past when they had labour disputes? Did it treat them poorly, or illegally, knowing that they were unlikely to seek legal assistance?

    Essentially, Byron only acted correctly at each point in time if they genuinely were unaware of the workers’ statuses for several years. And that would make them a bit too naive for me to believe.

    1. As you say, speculation I’m afraid. If you are correct, then I understand the anger. But there is simply no evidence to support it. And it is common for employers to be taken in by good quality forgeries. Until there is more, I cannot see the basis for justified outrage. Thanks for commenting though.

      1. I’d like to know why this seems to have been a specific issue for Byron and not any other large employer? Why haven’t there been similar cases with Tesco, Burger king, Mc D’s, Pizza hut etc. etc. etc. Are illegals not applying to them for jobs (seems unlikely) or are they somehow better at spotting fake documents and if so why?

      2. An easy way to put this possible scenario to bed would be checking the salaries of the illegal migrants. If Byron were paying these people a considerable amount less than legal workers employed in the same capacity then clearly Byron knew what they were doing?

  2. It was legal to round up Jews too during the Holocaust. The French did it so efficiently before the Germans even asked them to and there is a terrible shame for this.

      1. The sad thing is that “TF” thinks that is actually an argument.

        I wonder if (say) that a serial killing rapist had been found to be working in a burger bar, and the burger bar owners had been warned of a raid, and they decided to tip him off so he could escape (presumably what these idiots think should have happened) if they would support that.

        Or (more likely) is this the idea that the laws should be ignored if we feel like it, presumably for a better good. They should read/see “A Man for all Seasons”. I was going to say “again” but that’s probably optimistic.

        Perhaps the best response is “what would you have done then ?”

  3. The ‘real facts’ will probably never come to light.

    Let’s suppose for a second that the bluster around this story is accurate. Let’s suppose that employees at Byron were ambushed by immigration officials after they attended what they were told was a training meeting. Those without their papers were then escorted to a detention facility and either eventually released or deported back to such glamorous destinations as Albania and Egypt. Each account of the episode that I’ve read today has had varying amounts of dramatic flare, but all of them have pointed towards a potential injustice having been done.

    It seems to me that a key point of your post is that we are not in a position to cry foul if we suspect an injustice has occurred if we don’t have all the facts and all the evidence. As an immigrant myself (granted from a fairly palatable nation as far as the Home Office is concerned), I have some sense of what it’s like not to be on a level playing field in this country. As a immigrant you have to accept certain sacrifices/punishments simply because you are not from here – like working in burger restaurants just so you can afford a cramped room in zone eight. The staff at Byron, who earn less than me and probably you, are not in a position to have their voices heard. They probably don’t know their legal rights (though these would have been spewed at them at some point during their deportation/arrest), they may not have the level of English they need to communicate, and they may not be in a position to mount any defence whatsoever of their claim to be in the UK.

    As a migrant you start off on the back foot – that’s why it is the migrants that have to work at Byron and the Brits are the ones eating and drinking at Byron. There is no way that the ‘real truth’ of this will ever come to light, so let’s have the conversation now and be measurably disgusted at the potential injustice that has occurred and will continue to happen.

    Although you suggested that you might support the idea that ‘no one is illegal’, I got little sense of that while reading your post as it left me wondering how anyone claiming that evidence is needed before injustice is acknowledged could have any idea what it is like to an ‘illegal’.

    1. I’m afraid if you disagree with the proposition that evidence is needed before injustice is acknowledged, then I don’t see how this can be sensibly discussed.

      1. A bit like the way the governments responsible for the transatlantic slave trade and barbaric colonisation campaigns won’t ever really offer state apology for the crimes against humanity as to avoid any legal repercussions?

      2. I think you’ll find @djalphatiger that everyone in those governments is now dead.

    2. “Let’s suppose that employees at Byron were ambushed by immigration officials after they attended what they were told was a training meeting.”

      My God! In what kind of society to the police not politely phone criminals and let them know that they are going to be arriving before showing up and arresting people?

      1. It’s because they are illegal immigrants and it is moronic virtue signalling.

      2. Actually it’s been known for certain individuals amongst political elites and other high profile individuals to be given decidedly different treatment, look at certain cases involving people with diplomatic immunity

      3. People with diplomatic immunity simply don’t count for purposes of this discussion. Embassies are little pieces of some other country – deliberately so.

      4. Yes it is. Firstly diplomatic immunity means just that. You can request (I believe) a diplomat leave the country, but they have immunity.

        Secondly, the treatment depends generally on the chances of them escaping the Police. It is unlikely that if (say) David Cameron was going to be arrested he would be able to escape. It is somewhat more likely that in illegal immigrant will disappear.

  4. Can someone explain the mechanics of this illegal employment? Evidently some of these people have been working for Byron for years. Byron must have been paying NI contributions and Income Tax in respect of them – in which case they must have NI numbers. Employers’ Tax & NI returns have been made monthly (rather than annually) for a few years now. Surely it wouldn’t take years for discrepancies to come to light?

    1. It can do. I have represented many people entering and working illegally, who have obtained convincing identity documents, including an NI number, and have worked and paid tax for many years before being caught.

      1. But it does seem like an awful lot of these workers were at Byron and for many years. I very much appreciate the speculation/lack of evidence. It does seem that, for the reasons you highlight, it seems highly doubtful Byron were wilfully turning a blind eye. But is it not possible the employer was not identified as something of a “soft touch” by the undoubted real baddies here- the forgers and the traffickers?

        And is there not a difference between maximising your employment checks (like if you were a detective who really wanted to find out), and compliance- in a similar vein to the whole tax avoidance/evasion situation. (Genuine question, not an expert). In which case we are not making legal arguments, but Byron aren’t exactly golden.

      2. Joe, that’s a very good point, and someone else made it, is this exclusively a Byron issue (or is it just that this one has made the papers, of course !) and if that is the case they need looking at (though I accept SB’s statement that there are excellent forgeries).

        However, none of the complaining people are complaining about this, as far as I can see. They’re complaining that Byron “colluded” with the Home Office to get them deported. They’re complaining generically that illegal immigrants are deported.

  5. When you characterize the opposition’s position this badly – “What matters, the narrative splutters, is that the big mean corporate baddie collaborated with the feds and sold out its poor, exploited workforce, some of whom had devoted years of faultless service, in what must only be characterised as an act proximate to a hate crime, and must be duly sanctioned in the court of public opinion, boycotted by all right thinking people, its CEO dragged naked through the streets of Shoreditch smeared in burger sauce and pickle juice.” – it shows that you’re a terrible barrister. Sorry, but no respectable lawyer ever gave such a smear-filled version of their opponent’s case or so deliberately miss the point.

    Byron Burgers arranged meetings so that Home Office Officials come could – with names and photographs provided by them – and arrest their workers because they are illegally working in the UK. For you, it’s simply a matter of the law: the workers should not have been working there and if Byron Burgers came to know if they were right to cooperate with the Home Office in having their workers deported.

    The opposition’s argument is that there is a moral dimension to this: these people were working illegally, but that is not a moral crime. For someone to turn on their own workers to get out of trouble with the law is immoral.

    I think the root of this was that Britain used to be a Christian society. People still remember the Bible stories about Peter denying Christ before the cruxifiction. There was a moral dimension to people’e understanding of the poor. I know that is fading, but I think that’s where it comes from.

    1. What should the law be changed to in order to address this “moral crime”?

      One way would be to remove any restriction on anybody working in the UK however they might have come to enter the country and whatever their background. If that were to happen there would be no circumstances in which employers like Byron ever faced any legal compulsion to turn over illegal workers because there would be no illegal workers. However, this would involve stating that anybody who managed to somehow make it across the UK’s borders was effectively entitled to work here and that even if there were still rules which allowed for them to be deported, if they made it back in again they’d still be allowed to work as long as they could avoid being found. Traffickers would love this.

      Or perhaps a more modest proposal would be to decriminalise the act of employing workers who did not have the appropriate documentation and to remove any obligation on employers to co-operate with the immigration authorities in the event of such workers being discovered. Again, this would be wonderful for traffickers. It would also be fantastic for unscrupulous employers who wanted cheap labour from people who’d have a strong interest not to try and enforce any employment law rights. They’d actively seek out workers who didn’t have the right to work.

      Or is that the only moral course of action for an employer now is to take criminal responsibility for things which they did not (as far as anyone knows) knowingly do? To let the managers of the Byron Burgers restaurants who employed illegal workers in good faith on the belief that their forged documents were genuine be prosecuted, fined and imprisoned? Would that be a moral employer? One which protected its illegal workers over ones who had done no wrong?

      1. Yes things can be taken into consideration like the individuals impact on our society (pros and cons) and judge each case on it’s merit then offer an amnesty to those who are in fact what help make Britain Great!

    2. We know nothing of the circumstances leading up to the Home Office’s involvement. It is entirely plausible that the Home Office informed Byron that they had cause to believe that Byron was employing undocumented workers, at which stage Byron had two choices – 1. Tip the staff off / refuse to cooperate and face prosecution; or 2. Cooperate. If the latter, there was the choice between a raid or an agreed visit.

      Your narrative assumes that Byron approached the Home Office first. Your feeling of injustice stems from that assumption, for which there is no factual basis.

      1. I was wondering whether Byron could have been compelled to organise the training day under a Labour Market Enforcement undertaking or order from a court, one of the measures in the new Immigration Act….?

    3. “The opposition’s argument is that there is a moral dimension to this: these people were working illegally, but that is not a moral crime. ”

      I think you need to back that up. They may very well have taken jobs that other workers deserved and might have benefited from and needed to feed their own families and pay their own rent. They deliberately exploited the law. Both of these are moral issues.

    4. “Sorry, but no respectable lawyer ever gave such a smear-filled version of their opponent’s case or so deliberately miss the point.”

      Sorry, but what?? That’s practically their job!

  6. When you characterize the opposition’s position this badly – “What matters, the narrative splutters, is that the big mean corporate baddie collaborated with the feds and sold out its poor, exploited workforce, some of whom had devoted years of faultless service, in what must only be characterised as an act proximate to a hate crime, and must be duly sanctioned in the court of public opinion, boycotted by all right thinking people, its CEO dragged naked through the streets of Shoreditch smeared in burger sauce and pickle juice.” – it shows that you’re a terrible barrister. Sorry, but no respectable lawyer ever gave such a smear-filled version of their opponent’s case or so deliberately miss the point.

    Byron Burgers arranged meetings so that Home Office Officials come could – with names and photographs provided by them – and arrest their workers because they are illegally working in the UK. For you, it’s simply a matter of the law: the workers should not have been working there and if Byron Burgers came to know if they were right to cooperate with the Home Office in having their workers deported. The opposition’s argument is that there is a moral dimension to this: these people were working illegally, but that is not a moral crime. For someone to turn on their own workers to get out of trouble with the law is immoral.

    I think the root of this was that Britain used to be a Christian society. People still remember the Bible stories about Peter denying Christ before the cruxifiction. There was a moral dimension to people’e understanding of the poor. I know that is fading, but I think that’s where it comes from.

  7. “if you don’t like those rules, your recourse is the democratic process. Not ill-thought-out hate campaigns and playground chants of “tattle tale” against people or companies”

    Despite your sneering characterisation, this *is* the democratic process in action. Make it clear that public opinion does not stand with companies who become participants in immigration stings and we are one step closer to changing the laws that brought this about.

    It might also make companies less eagerly willing to go the extra mile in leaping to the government’s demands, as Byron appear to have here.

    1. 1.You appear to equate “going the extra mile” with complying with the law.
      2. You know insufficient about the facts to assert that this was a “sting”. Far more likely it was a Home Office request, which Byron could either comply with or frustrate, the latter inviting prosecution.
      3. You consider the democratic process to amount to vilifying private employers for complying with laws passed by an elected Parliament.
      4. The only argument that can be inferred from your comment is that a private company should deliberately break the law, exposing their employees to prosecution leading to risk of imprisonment, when that law offends your personal politics. To insist on that is at best untenable, at worse narcissistic.

      1. 1. There is “complying with the law” (eg not obstructing justice) and there is going above and beyond to orchestrate faked training sessions so that staff are available to be collected.

        2. The Guardian today suggests strongly it was a sting.

        3. You appear to think the democratic process operates in a vacuum, somehow utterly insulated from public opinion.

        4. I realise the principle of charity is completely alien to you, but I suggest another argument is readable here. That is, the company should not have immediately caved. It could have taken on the risk of prosecution. It could have defended itself and its staff, and protested publically at attempts to co-opt it into working as an executive arm of the government against loyal employees.

        If they were shown to be illegal, then sure, they face consequences. But there is a process for that, and it’s not one that Byron needs to expedite.

        Perhaps Byron *knew* they were illegal, however, and wasn’t in a position to mount a defence. In that case, their behaviour is even more reprehensible: turning over staff to save their own skins. And what message does that send to other employers? “It’s fine to employ illegal immigrants, just so long as you hand them over when we call”.

      2. 1. The details have not been confirmed – indeed the Home Office has denied the narrative of the faked training session – but even if Byron had invited staff in for the express purpose of their being confronted by Home Office officials, the suggestion that this is going “above and beyond” does not become true through repetition. As I have explained in the blog, and as the comment by Oliver above explains, the practical alternatives were nil. Once the Home Office indicated that they were going to attend, it was a choice between a civil confrontation and a traumatic raid. No doubt had Byron opted for the latter, the argument would run that Byron is a monster for knowing that the HO intended to arrest workers and encouraged the Home Office to conduct a dawn raid rather than a less aggressive and upsetting alternative.

        2. Define “sting”. No report has yet indicated how the matters came to light – i.e. whether the Home Office were tipped off by Byron, or whether by other intelligence. If the latter, Byron’s hands would have been immediately tied. In the absence of proof of the former, it is entirely unreasonable to assume, simply because it fits your politics, that Byron “must” have alerted the Home Office, and are therefore responsible for all that flows.

        3. By your logic, the Brexiteers targeting EU migrants in the street with hostility and abuse to force a change of immigration policy is “the democratic process in action”. Plainly it is not. It is the collective punishment of individuals for nothing more than abiding by a law with which you disagree.

        4. Byron could indeed have assumed the risk of prosecution. And who would you like to volunteer to take on this risk? The manager who tells the Home Office over the phone that they’re not cooperating? The shift manager who texts the illegal workers with a tip-off? Who exactly are you asking to volunteer to being exposed to a prison sentence to satisfy your personal beliefs? Because the law makes plain that individuals, not just companies, are liable. And the person being hauled up in a Crown Court will certainly not be you. Or maybe it’s the low-paid legal workers – both migrant and indigenous – whose jobs will be imperilled by an exemplary fine imposed on an employer wilfully in defiance of the law. Is it those people that you’re seeking to absorb the blow?

        And as far as “expediting” the process and “working as an executive arm of the government against loyal employees [albeit employees who had defrauded their employer and put their co-workers at risk of unemployment and/or prosecution]”, I refer you to the above point regarding the “above and beyond” misnomer.

        Perhaps Byron *did* know that they were employing illegal workers. I accept that possibility. Perhaps Byron knowingly hired undocumented workers (although seeing as they were reportedly paid above the minimum wage, it seems like an odd business decision to make for a well-known company in the public eye when London is hardly short of EU migrants seeking service industry jobs, but let’s assume that they did) and, when they felt the heat, Byron struck a deal with the HO whereby they would round their migrant workers, lure them on a false pretext and hand them over, thereby avoiding being prosecuted, despite having engineered this entire situation from beginning to end. In which case, that is a story worthy of reporting. That is, I agree, worthy of anger. But while that is the narrative that many are leaping to, my point from the start has been that there is simply no evidence that this is the case. It is a theory born out of hope not evidence. And private employers should not be vilified because a bunch of Canary readers don’t bother to research the facts or the law and instead rush to hand down summary judgment on an entirely irrational, uninformed and unreasonable prospectus.

    2. A “sting” is when law enforcement encourages people to break the law in order to be able to arrest them. If it were the home office that were smuggling people into your country simply so that they could conduct operations like this, *that* would be a “sting”.

  8. The corporation has an obligation and the wherewithal to follow laws and regulations scrupulously to remain in business and profitable. The low wage immigrant workers have many fewer choices, if any at all. Both apparently broke laws. The burger joint should be held to a higher standard, because they objectively had the option to avoid breaking any laws.

  9. As someone who has been on the other side of this I thought it might be helpful to set out the employers experience.

    Typically you will receive a phone call out of the blue from a home office enforcement officer or a policeman. They will inform you that they believe you are employing an illegal worker and that you must not inform the worker or tip them off in any way. We then supplied copies of their immigration documents to show that (as far as we believed) they had a right to work in this country and that there must have been a mistake. The officer informed us that it was a high quality fake and that we were amongst a number of employers who had been duped. They then inform you that they will be attending your premises of work to arrest them.

    At that stage you have 3 choices:

    1) Inform the workers so that they can escape. You will be committing a criminal offence and when they raid your office the following day and find the worker is not there you will be the prime suspect, as you were the only person outside of the police who knew. On top of that you have no idea who the person you have been employing is, whether they have been trafficked or even if they are not permitted to be in the country because of criminality/terrorism.

    2) Refuse to cooperate but don’t tell the worker – You may well be exposing yourself to criminal liability or a fine for failing to cooperate. They will raid your offices and arrest the worker anyway. On top of that everyone else in the office will be distressed and terrified because the police have burst through the door to arrest people.

    3) Cooperate as Byron did.

    Its easy to sit there and make snide comments on Twitter but I don’t really understand how Byron was supposed to do anything else. Civil disobedience with a law you believe to be unjust is an extremely brave and significant decision, its not the bare minimum that we expect of people. Byron deserve no more criticism than anyone else who has complied with a law they don’t agree with, which I would imagine is just about all of us (the naked rambler excepted).

    1. That is extremely enlightening, thank you. I have shared it on Twitter, as it is important that the hysteria be tempered by the infusion of sensible factual reasoning.

      1. Twitter doesn’t do sensible factual reasoning. Your comment won’t even fit in a twitter post. Twitter does rage, hashtags and virtue signalling.

        It is very easy to demand other people take risks (in this case with their liberty) to make you feel good about yourself. If it was their own freedom on the line all those caterwauling would comply in an instant.

        They (almost all) are lazy cowards.

  10. I think you’re pretty wide of the mark here.

    I have a lot of experience with migrant workers, both legal and illegal, and I am and have for many years been an advocate for the rights of migrants and refugees.

    I have also been a business owner for many years, and have a good working knowledge of employment law.

    While the abuses and conditions of slavery, and near-slavery do of course exist here in the UK, there is absolutely no suggestion that this is the case with Byron. As far as you or I know, there is no evidence to suggest that Byron knew that the specific workers were illegal before they were informed that this was the case by the Home Office.

    If, as appears to be the case, these workers were working illegally with bogus or false NI numbers and IDs, and that Byron were paying them the same wages that they pay everyone else through their books (which will be the case: when your business is properly accounted and audited, there is nowhere to hide cash payments) then Byron will in no way have benefited from the illegal status of these workers, Nor will they have exploited them (any more then they exploit their legal workers).
    I also think you’re over-stating your case to suggest that the nation’s economy relies on a black market of illegal workers in the manner you describe. After all, in scenarios such as the ones you present, there is no tax or national insurance paid by the workers, and clearly the company who “employee” them will have crooked accounts. None of this in any way contributes to the national economy: only to the pockets of crooked gangmasters and exploiters.

    1. It’s not so much about slavery or near-slavery (althought that exists too) but more about whole cultures of fear in places where people know lots of workers don’t have papers, which make workers unable to complain or organise for basic rights. We know that places that co-operate with immigration enforcement aren’t doing it just to abide by the law but to terrorise their other workers with the threat. As for whether something fuels an economy or not: well, the British economy isn’t just the tax system. These people are engaging in productive activity. There is turnover and profit here, and mainly people don’t measure economic activity by how much tax people pay.

  11. “Private employers should not be vilified because a bunch of Canary readers don’t bother to research the facts or the law and instead rush to hand down summary judgment on an entirely irrational, uninformed and unreasonable prospectus.”

    Entirely? We are one fact — whether Byron knowingly hired these staff — away from this being a wholly rational and reasonable prospectus; one you say would be worthy of anger.

    The vilification here is entirely spewing from you, in virtually all directions. I struggle to see how you can be “mystified” at the reaction to this, given how even you yourself see what little additional evidence would be required to make this a matter of genuine outrage. That means it’s worthy of further investigation. That means it’s worthy of discussion.

    That means, frankly, that “they fulfilled their obligations under the law, had no other options open to them, and so criticising them in the slightest is deserving of nothing more than the full weight of my invective” is a miserly and unconstructive position for you to take.

    1. Being “one fact away” is insufficient to justify the leap to judgment and, worse, vigilante activism, when that one fact is enormous. J’accuse, my friend, of being a child-killer. That I am only one fact away from proving that is true. It does not follow that it is right for me to act in a way that supposes it is true, and to say, as so many are saying, that further inquiry is unnecessary. The whole point of the rule of law is that we do not descend into frenzies of speculation and anarchy when wrongdoing is alleged. We calmly look for evidence, and, until a case is proven, judgment is reserved. This is not to say, and I have never said, that this is not worthy of further investigation. Ian Dunt, a journalist I much admire, is digging around on this, and I await with interest to see what if anything emerges. But investigating and discussing are the precursors to, not synonymous with, concluding. That is the logical leap that I condemn. As it stands, there is no proof that Byron has done anything wrong. If proof emerges, I will of course revisit my position. But anyone in possession of the facts as known and an understanding of the law, who still concludes that Byron has committed an egregious wrong for which there is no possible legal or moral justification, is deceiving themselves.

      1. Of course that is one view. The international left-wing view I would make is that ‘doing anything wrong’ and being law abiding are not necessarily the same thing. Whilst it was not racist, I would contend that it is collusion with national-chauvinism, and some working class people, no doubt, succumb to national-sectionalism and support Bryon. As far as I can see, this is an anti-democratic attack on the international working class community.

      2. So in practical terms, which Byron employee are you volunteering for prosecution? Because someone would have been, in the name of the “non-collusion with national chauvinism” that you advocate.

    2. We are also only one fact away from you being guilty of (insert heinous crime here). So thank you for allowing me to start a hate campaign against you. After all, just one fact away… That’s almost there, isn’t it, you (insert heinous criminal designation here)?

  12. “BURGER restaurant Byron has been accused of acting in full accordance with UK immigration law.
    The chain has angered customers by co-operating with immigration services, betraying employees who had lied about their identities, just to avoid potentially unlimited fines.
    Eleanor Shaw, who has vowed never to eat in a Byron again, said: “What other laws do they obey? All of them?””

  13. Goto any Chinatown restaurant notifying them of an upcoming raid. Why don’t you notify the entirety of Chinatown that there’s a raid coming, and they should facilitate that by assembling all their staff in a month’s time for a “health and safety” meeting.

    What do you think would have happened when the Home Office showed up? It’s why the Home Office generally turn up unannounced in Chinatown. Sure, there’s more disruption, but rather that than going above and beyond in enforcing laws neither the employer, employees or clientele agree with.

    Having a raid does not have the same ultimate effect of Byron’s actions. It means the Home Office must throw the dice.

  14. a) Never use the lazy term ‘virtue signalling’ at start of a piece trying to to convince people of an alternative view.

    b) People are entitled to take a view beyond the strict letter of then law if a company is seen as behaving in a measly way.

    c) That the company was willing to let only their employees carry the cab so they can get off is something that can be regarded as cowardly is measure of the company’s ethos.

    d) The agency has many obligations, including ensuring the protection of the rights and welfare of workers. That it spends the vast majority of its time and resources hunting undocumented workers, with increasing theatricality and now the collusion of their employers, is not the kind o country us want to live in.

    e) It’s our money and we have the right to spend it with companies that we don’t find objectionable. If you are happy with that kind of conduct and have little sympathy for people are paid very modestly to do fairly crap job, entirely up to you. Just less of the pompous stuff.

    f) ‘No one is illegal’ Simon Wiesenthal

    1. A) It is virtue-signalling.
      B) They of course are; but in this case there is no sensible argument for anger targeted at Byron in the absence of sensible suggestions as to what they could possibly have done differently.
      C) That is exactly the kind of assumption-laden, fact-avoiding, prejudice-filled rush to judgment that I am talking about. Examine your statement and see if you can even begin to justify it. You can’t.
      D) That’s fine. But your argument is then with the Home Office, not a private employer and its employees.
      E) “That kind of conduct” means what, exactly? Again your comment suggests you have not read or understood my point. What has Byron done wrong? Put aside your (understandable) anger at the treatment of migrants by the authorities – what did this employer do wrong? What should it have done differently, that it could have done without sacrificing its lawful employees on the altar of prosecution?

      1. It’s a PR disaster that they must be regretting. They went well beyond what was needed from them. Clearly have little understanding of their client base. Too blind to see it was toxic to connect over priced burgers with slave labour, and sordid sting operation. I am sure they now regret it.

        What they should have done is what the law asks them to, and not get involved in what has become a political theatre. How many have gone to the extent this company has.

        It is silly to pretend there is no wider political context to this. Nor can we ignore the investment company that bought out Byron’s first acts was to rearrange it finances so goes off shore.

        It was pretty stupid thing to do in business terms. And they are paying the price for their short sightednes and ignorance of their market. I doubt the founders and previous management would have made the same mistake.

      2. I suspect the main fault lies with immigration enforcement. There have been other raids but for wherever reason they decided to publicise and make an example of this one in particular I doubt there was anything Byron could do about it and it is them that is now paying the price.

      3. It’s not a PR disaster. Intelligent people will see the idiots behaviour for what it is ; ignorant and lashing out at a government policy they don’t like – not allow anyone who wants to move here to do so.

        One thing adults know is the snowflakes get bored quickly (usually because of some Reality TV rubbish) and start twittering about something else they don’t understand or bother to think about.

  15. So… my daughter’s boyfriend – now husband – turned out to be an illegal worker in a restaurant chain. He was arrested (with five others) in an mid-morning armed raid in front of shocked staff, customers, and my daughter. He had worked with the chain for three years (using a portugese driving licence for ID) and paid his tax and NI throughout that period. He was on the verge of setting up a home with a daughter and had just been promoted by the chain to be a regional chef manager responsible for a number of restaurants. The day after the raid he was gone – removed back to his home in Brazil. My daughter followed him, later married him, and they now have a four year old daughter themselves who I hardly get to see. My now son-in-law was actually in the country legally on a five year student visa, but working illegally on a Portuguese driving licence. He was three months past the five years when he was arrested. The restaurant chain concerned were fined £50k over the incident.

    My feelings on this were all thrown up again by the Byron incident. The “training day” method of arrest sounds a better alternative to the horror my daughter witnessed. But I also can’t help feeling that many of those “rounded-up” and sent home would have been worthy of retaining in this country rather than removing. Kept overnight in the detention centre, gone the next day with (as far as I can believe) no proper legal representation, and no opportunity (it seems) to appeal or to attempt to build a case to be given the right to stay – coupled with some recognition of the crime committed either in the form of a fine, a suspended sentence, or a community service order.

    The workers arrested will have been building lives – I am sure many of them will have responsible UK citizens prepared to speak up for them but whose own lives are now thrown into disarray. Seven years on the day in December 09 still affects my family. My other daughter has just married her in the UK without her sister present. My Brazilian son-in-law was stupid, as I told him the first time I travelled out to see them, but he was in love. Five months before his arrest he asked my daughter to go to Brazil with him to live rather the UK. She wasn’t ready yet, and said No, let’s stay our live together here. He should, of course have said – no I have to go home, my Visa will run out. But he was in love. So he stayed. And he was arrested. And now he is afraid to visit the UK because the immigration officer on duty at Heathrow could refuse him entry.

    I have no problem with Byron co-operating with the authorities when the issue was brought to their attention. And if they are guilty of turning a blind eye to false papers they will be fined. I also have no problem with those working illegally being arrested and questioned. My issues entirely surround the process after that and speed with which action is taken. I agree with the secret barrister that sometimes the arrests will remove people from danger and exploitation – but sometimes they will also devastate innocent families and turn their lives upside down forever. It seems to me that all circumstances are different, but all treatment is largely the same.

    But attacking Byron restaurants is misguided and foolish. Campaign instead for changes to law and due process. I’ll still be eating in them, though I can’t bring myself to visit the chain where my daughter and her foolish husband worked – it is too painful, because I miss my daughter so much. On the other hand, without that restaurant, my daughter would not have met the love of her life. Complicated isn’t it?

    1. Thank you for your thought-provoking comment. I agree entirely that the practicalities of immigration enforcement are often horrible, and the treatment meted out, particularly in detention centres, is inhumane. It is also easy to overlook the human cost, as you describe so vividly. One of the many sad features of this case is that the genuine issues concerning how our country frames its immigration law and policy become lost, drown out by the megaphones of professional attention-seeking antagonists. If the protests were outside the Home Office, targeted at the policies that, particularly under our now-Prime Minister, divided families and treated human beings as cattle, I would be wholeheartedly behind them. Sadly too many people are unwilling to recognise that Byron is not the right target of their anger.

      1. Thank you – the Byron incident and my youngest daughter’s wedding this weekend brought all this home again. There is no simple solution, but I do think sledgehammers are taken to every incident and there surely could be some time built into the process to pause for breath and take stock of all the circumstances rather than focus on one element. Ironically, of course, in other criminal investigations and court cases – including violent ones – background checks and an examination of mitigating circumstances are likely to happen. But with immigration, it often seems that compassion and simple human rights are overlooked in the desire to keep up the removal numbers that enable politicians to proclaim their successful policies. Those numbers hide a multitude of different stories.

  16. Sigh. I beg you to put your anger to one side and consider calmly what you are saying. You are spewing enraged assumptions without pausing to think. Where is the evidence of “slave labour”? Read the legal analysis above and tell me how this was a “sting”, and what Byron should have done instead? You say “what they should have done is what the law asked them to” – that is what they have done. Read the blog. Understand it. The “above and beyond” argument is a nonsense.

    The “political context” and Byron’s offshore financial affairs are utterly irrelevant to this discrete issue, which is what, faced with a criminal investigation into its employees, Byron should or could have done differently. Your other complaints, valid as they may be, are not relevant here.

    Whether it was a stupid thing to do in business terms I don’t know, or frankly care. My argument is simply that people are getting irrationally angry and hateful, and they should all reflect on the facts and the law before rushing to judgment.

  17. indication of their conduct. This is largely a PR disaster. And that is to do with image. You can sigh all you like, but that matters. You haven’t given an account of why it is wrong to regard Byron as having beyond the call. Dismissal is not an account.

  18. What do you think about those Polish villagers who sheltered Jewish escapees from the camps? (Godwin’s Law) What disappoints me is that nobody has mentioned what might happen to these illegal workers after they are deported.

  19. Interestingly despite other companies having been raided with little publicity this unusually high profile and publicised raid came just after Theresa May became PM. Coincidence?

  20. The misrepresentation of the ‘opposition’s’ position does somewhat undermine any credible argument by ‘The Secret Barrister’, although a number of points made are fair. It also misappropriates the wide range of different positions in opposition to Byron, suggesting that they are all one and the same. And of course it comes from the perspective of a barrister, which is fair enough, although I’m not sure how ‘brutal’ or ‘technicolour’ this particularly portrait is. However, this both helps and hinders the argument by virtue of what is given and not given weight.

    Fundamentally, intelligent people can construct entirely credible arguments both for and against Byron’s actions. These arguments are manifestations of our moral, political or other views: and the strength of the argument is as much down to the ability of the arguer to talk comprehensively and eloquently rather than the quality of the argument itself, which is a travesty but a reality.

    Either way, whether my view that Byron acted in a morally abhorrent way is agreed with or disagreed with – and indeed whether it is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – does not change the ultimate reality that Byron will now lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds in the coming years. A few self-righteous individuals may determinedly choose to eat at Byron as a sign of solidarity, but for the most part the response will be a boycott with long-term implications, as has been the case with Nestlé. That is the kind of brutal, technicolour portrait of reality, that I appreciate.

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