Brook House Inquiry – Preliminary Hearing

The Brook House Inquiry – the first of its kind – will hold its first virtual preliminary hearing at 2pm today, Friday 25 September 2020.

The Brook House Inquiry is the first public inquiry into immigration detention in the United Kingdom. It’s first preliminary hearing comes almost one year since it was established by the Home Secretary in November 2019, and over three years since the abuse and mistreatment of detainees at Brook House IRC was first exposed by the BBC’s Panorama documentary, Under-Cover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets.

The preliminary hearing follows the Inquiry Chair’s recent determinations on who will be Core Participants to the Inquiry. The purpose of the preliminary hearing will be to update Core Participants on the Inquiry’s progress, whilst inviting them to make submissions on matters relevant to the future direction of the Inquiry. It will also provide an opportunity for those provisionally refused Core Participant status, to appeal those decisions.

Having received 16 applications, the Inquiry Chair designated 12 of those applicants as Core Participants. This included two of DPG’s clients, ex-detainee BB and Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (‘GDWG’). However, the only four applicants to be provisionally refused Core Participant status were all NGOs, each with extensive knowledge and experience of supporting individuals in detention.

DPG acts for three of the national NGOs provisionally refused Core Participant status, including Bail for Immigration Detainees (‘BID’), Detention Action and INQUEST. Each of them, along with Medical Justice who are separately represented, have appealed the Inquiry Chair’s provisional refusal decisions. Those appeals will be heard at today’s preliminary hearing. It is hoped that the Inquiry Chair, Ms Kate Eves, will realise that they all have an invaluable contribution to make to the Inquiry and extend Core Participant status to each of them.

Despite the worrying delay in establishing and progressing the Inquiry, its work remains of vital importance. It will include looking expressly at the culture of abuse, including racial abuse, at then G4S-operated Brook House IRC. It is hoped that the Inquiry’s close scrutiny of the events at Brook House will lead to a better understanding of what abuse and mistreatment occurred, why it occurred and to what extent it was systemic or institutional in nature – such that it may have been occurring across the immigration detention estate. Only with this understanding will the Inquiry be able to deliver on its Terms of Reference to provide recommendations on changes required to help prevent a recurrence of this mistreatment.

Owing to the ongoing difficulties in holding in-person hearings, the preliminary hearing will be held virtually with members of the public able to follow along with the live stream on the Inquiry’s YouTube channel, here. The agenda for the preliminary hearing can also be found here.

BB, GDWG, BID, Detention Action and INQUEST are represented by Joanna Thomson and Mark Hylands of Deighton Pierce Glynn instructing barristers Nick Armstrong of Matrix Chambers and Jesse Nicholls of Doughty Street Chambers.

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