A High Court Judge has ordered that an inquiry be held in public into the allegations of abuse at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre. 21 staff members from the G4S security firm may be compelled to give evidence in the inquiry. This is the first public inquiry into immigration centres that has been ordered.
Two former detainees brought the case against the centre and were part of the undercover BBC Panorama programme into Brook House that was aired in September 2017. The programme showed footage of the abuse that was occurring at Brook House and includes staff abusing and insulting the detainees. Following the BBC programme the Home Office still extended the G4S contract for another two years.
G4S revealed that “21 staff involved in the allegations 11 were dismissed or left the organisation after the BBC programme. Three staff involved in the allegations later resigned. One was dismissed after subsequent similar behaviour.”
The Home Office requested that the investigation be conducted “behind closed doors” and that the officers involved not be compelled to give evidence if they did not want to. Judge Mrs Justice May disagreed and requested that some of the hearings be held in public. She said that:
“immigration detainees were a uniquely vulnerable group of people. It is unacceptably degrading and dehumanising where there is repeated and apparently casual abuse on the part of staff employed by the state to supervise and look after such detainees. A public inquiry was required, the Judge continued, because the full extent of the discreditable behaviour has not been exposed to public view and that having open hearings would be necessary to maintain public confidence in the rule of law”.
The Judge also had concerns about why Home Office staff based at Brook House, or inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons did not “notice anything amiss”. The Judge felt it was necessary to compel G4S staff to give evidence as there was an “overwhelming probability” that they would not do so voluntarily.
Callum Tulley, who went undercover for Panorama, said:
“In the two and half years I spent inside Brook House … I bore witness to the repeated mistreatment of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Some detainees were driven to drug use, self-harm and suicide attempts, while others were victims of physical and racial abuse from staff.”
“It’s been hugely frustrating to be told the mistreatment we worked so hard to expose has not yet been adequately investigated, and for those involved, justice has not been done. So it’s encouraging that with a full public inquiry likely to take place, those responsible for the abuse may be held accountable, and detainees in this country may face a safer, stronger system in the future.”
Former detainee BB said:
“This case has forced me to relive some of the most painful times in my life. I was worried that the voices of the victims would never be heard and that the truth would never come out. But now we will have a proper inquiry. People need to know the truth about immigration detention.”
A Home Office spokesperson said:
“We will consider this ruling carefully. It would be inappropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.”