19 Sep Brook House Inquiry Publishes Damning Report into Abuse & Mistreatment of Detained People at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre
Press Release: by DPG Solicitors for Core Participants D687 and Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group
The Brook House Inquiry report, published today, is a searing indictment over 711 pages of Brook House Immigration Removal Centre in 2017, but its conclusions go far further. It is the first time there has been a public inquiry in immigration detention, and the report pulls no punches:
1. It finds 19 incidents of what appear to be breaches of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Vol I/p.3/§13).
2. Expressly rejecting the narrative of the Home Office and G4S that what happened represented the behaviour of a small minority of of staff working at Brook House (I/15/§70).
3. That there was instead “dysfunctional” management (I/11/§53), a “toxic culture” (II/255/§110) and “the entire safeguarding system… [is] dysfunctional” (I/9/§40) with a “complete absence of a consistent mechanism” and “a wholesale breakdown in the system of safeguards” (II/86/§41).
4. That many of the same problems are likely to subsist, with some of the same senior staff still in post and insufficient reflection on the part of the company (Serco) that now runs the Centre (II/257-261 and in particular §§119-121).
5. Most fundamentally, rejecting the Home Office claim that immigration detention is not indefinite, emphasising the damage that uncertainty about detention does to those subject to it, and calling for immigration detention to be limited to 28 days. The Home Office was “trying to avoid the reality of how people experienced being detained”: II/64/§54 and I/14/§68.
Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors (“DPG”) represented two Core Participants in the Inquiry, one of the former detained people, and the charity Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (“GDWG”) which supports detained people in the Centre and provides volunteer visitors.
Mark Hylands, solicitor at DPG, said:
“This is the first time immigration detention has been the subject of proper scrutiny. That scrutiny was resisted at every turn. Our client and another formerly detained person had to sue the Home Secretary to get this Inquiry. Once it started, the Home Office and G4S continued to resist it at every turn. One can now see why: the evidence is breath-taking in its extent and depth. Our clients have now been exonerated; the Home Office and G4S have been condemned. Immigration detention needs to be overhauled and, as the Chair has said, heavily limited. In contrast, the Government is currently planning a dangerous expansion of its use by way of the Illegal Migration Act 2023. The Chair’s condemnation of the Home Office’s repeated failure to learn lessons and act upon previous recommendations made to them, is striking. It is hoped such failures do not persist in light of this important report. ”
Anna Pincus, director of GDWG, said:
“We are particularly relieved that the Chair has accepted our call, and the call of many others, to time limit immigration detention. That may sound bold to some, but it is the only way. The scale of abuse found here was huge. Similar things have been found before. The conditions which fermented this abuse, including the language of the hostile environment, remain. Limiting it or, preferably, a future without detention, is the only effective protection.”
Nick Armstrong KC, barrister instructed by DPG, added:
“All those with an interest in and a responsibility for immigration detention should read the whole of this report, and reflect on the detail of its findings. They should then reflect on how matters are likely to be as the Illegal Migration Act 2023 comes into force, the number of those detained exponentially increases, and the safeguards against its use and abuse reduce. There is a very real prospect that matter are about to get a lot worse, not better”.
Our clients will take some time to consider and digest the extensive report and its findings. In the meantime, we note further examples of the report’s detailed findings include the following:
1. At II/227/§41: “Racist language and actions, and a culture of bullying, bravado and ‘macho’ attitudes, underpinned a number of the events discussed in this report… I observed explicit racism and tolerance of racism by others, along with a desire by some staff to ‘fit in’ and to appear ‘tough’ or masculine by adopting the aggressive culture of some existing staff”. These aspects of staff behaviour cannot be separated from cultural issues. Prisonisation, dehumanisation, the ‘us and them’ attitude exhibited by many and the fundamental failure to understand the power imbalance all fed into and also fed off attitudes of racism and toxic bravado”.
2. At II/255/§111: “Overall, there appears to have been a dysfunctional [Senior Management Team] that likely paved the way for a toxic culture among staff during the relevant period”.
3. A key component of the toxic culture was the use of highly abusive language with very high levels of swearing and also racist language. See eg II/237/§71 onwards and II/245/§90 onwards. See also III/35 for 19 June 2017.
4. There was an “us and them” culture at the Centre (II/229/§50), and managers fed into a macho-aggressive culture (II/237/§70).
5. The Chair recommended that the Home Office ensure mental health training and diversity but also training with a trauma-informed approach, and training about their own (staff’s) resilience (II/223).
6. Although at II/243/§89 the Chair decided that she could not reach a finding of institutional racism, that was only because that did not form part of her Terms of Reference and examining it would have required a broader investigation. However, to the extent she could examine the issue, “I have found considerable evidence of racist beliefs and abuse by staff… [and] that Brook House appears to have been a breeding ground for racist views in the relevant period and was perceived as an unacceptable environment in which to express them”.
7. The lead GP in the Centre, Dr Oozeerally, and who continues to work at Brook House, was found to have been “unapologetic” and “intransigent” in his evidence concerning significant parts of his safeguarding functions (II/90/§50).
8. The language used in respect of the healthcare failures was notably strong: “complete absence of a consistent mechanism for the routine follow-up of detained people who were considered to be victims of torture or adults at risk”; “These were serious systemic failures, indicating a wholesale breakdown in the system of safeguards designed to protect vulnerable detained people”.
9. There was a continued reliance on an abandoned test of suitability for detention concerned with whether a person could be “satisfactorily managed”: II/97/§65 onwards. Using once again very strong language, the Chair said: “This practice was wholly inappropriate and, to the extent it is continuing, it should cease immediately” (§67).
10. Monitoring and inspection safeguards had failed. The Independent Monitoring Board (“IMB”) had been “insufficiently challenging” (II/310/§24). The prison inspectorate too were criticised: “the 2016 HMIP inspection report overall did not properly reflect the evidence HMIP obtained of the experiences of detained people”.
11. There had been multiple failures properly to investigate complaints from detained Officers were believed without having been challenged or even called to interview. Previous disciplinary action against them was ignored: II/278/§39 and §48.
12. With regard to current conditions at Brook House, and the extent to which the new operator, Serco, recognised the problems (including with many of the same staff): “I was disappointed that Mr Hewer [the new director] had to have excerpts from the transcripts of evidence from other staff read to him before he recognised that the cultural change he described in his statement did not reflect reality” (II/261/§119).
- The Brook House Inquiry resulted from a BBC Panorama Programme broadcast in September 2017 and then a judicial review brought by two detained people. In 2019 the High Court agreed that the Home Secretary was not properly investigating what Panorama had found. The Brook House Inquiry was established in November 2019. Its hearings took place in autumn 2021 and spring 2022 and its final report was published on 19 September 2023.
- Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors (Joanna Thomson, Mark Hylands, Clare Hayes ,Unkha Banda, Ralitsa Peykova, Ahmed Ali) represented the detained person known as D687, together with GDWG and also a number of witnesses including Bail for Immigration Detainees, Detention Action and INQUEST. DPG instructed Nick Armstrong KC and Jesse Nicholls of Matrix Chambers, together with Una Morris of Garden Court Chambers.
- For further information contact Mark Hylands on firstname.lastname@example.org or Nick Armstrong on email@example.com.