Breaking – High Court orders landmark public inquiry into immigration detention abuse

June 14, 2019

Detention Action Press Release – for immediate release

Friday 14 June 2019

Breaking – High Court orders landmark public inquiry into immigration detention abuse

The High Court has today ordered the government to establish a public inquiry into abuse at Brook House, as pressure mounts on Sajid Javid to reform the UK’s immigration detention system.

After a successful legal challenge brought by two of the victims, Mrs Justice May held that the Home Office is failing to meet their duties to hold an effective investigation. She ruled that the investigation would need powers to compel witnesses, that a “significant public scrutiny of the PPO’s Special Investigation will be required” and that MA and BB must be afforded funded representation.

The case was brought by MA and BB, two victims of the abuse at Brook House uncovered by the BBC’s Panorama programme in 2017. The two challenged the decision by the Home Office to commission an investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), arguing that abuse of such seriousness and scale requires a full inquiry, instituted under the Inquiries Act 2005 and compliant with the UK’s obligations under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a powerful judgment handed down today Mrs Justice May ruled that the government’s proposed inquiry into mistreatment and abuse of detainees at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre will not comply with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The UK currently holds around 25,000 people per year in immigration detention with no time limit. Today’s judgement follows a series of damaging reports into immigration detention published this year, and mounting calls on Sajid Javid, including from leading Conservatives, to implement a 28-day time limit. The Home Affairs Select Committee “found serious problems with almost every element of the immigration detention system.”[1]

The Cross Party Time Limit on Immigration Detention Amendment tabled to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill currently before Parliament is supported by over 80 MPs including a significant number of  Conservatives, such as Andrew Mitchell, Caroline Spelman, Crispin Blunt, David Davis, Dominic Grieve, Henry Smith, Maria Caulfield, Pauline Latham and Steve Double. In addition, the amendment has received the support of the Labour, SNP, DUP, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru, Change UK, Green frontbenches and several Independent MPs.

Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Action said: “After two years of dodging and diving, the government has now been forced to hold a credible inquiry into the abuse at Brook House immigration detention centre. This inquiry will put our indefinite immigration detention system firmly in the national spotlight, with the victims rightly front and centre. Any One Nation Tory leadership candidate worth their salt would also pledge today to end the depravity of indefinite immigration detention without delay”.

BB, one of the claimants in the legal challenge, said: “This case has forced me to relive some of the most painful times in my life, and today’s judgement is a huge relief. The abuse shown on Panorama wasn’t even half of what really went on. It was every day and we were trapped in there, never knowing when it would end or when we would be released. I was worried that the voices of the victims would never be heard. I was worried the truth would never come out. It stops me sleeping at night because there are people still in there and the whole system is to blame.

“But now we will have a proper inquiry. I brought this case because people need to know the truth about immigration detention. I hope that’s what will happen now”

Michael Darko of Freed Voices, a group of experts-by-experience who have experienced detention and are committed to speaking out, said: “Those vying to become our next Prime Minister should take note today – Britain’s system of indefinite immigration detention is broken and we’re looking to you to fix it. In Brook House we saw racist abuse, we saw malicious neglect of vulnerable people, and we saw an officer try to strangle someone without a suggestion that anyone would do anything about it. We witnessed the end result of a system that is unjust and inhumane to its core.

“As a group of people who have between us lost more than 20 years of our lives to pointless and inhumane immigration detention, Freed Voices welcomes this judgement in the hope that an inquiry will expose the reality of immigration detention.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “We welcome today’s judgement as an answer to decades of denial and obfuscation by the Home Office. Recent years have seen the highest number of deaths of immigration detainees ever recorded. The abuse exposed at Brook House and the wider harms across the detention estate highlight the human cost of UK immigration policies.

The value of independent public scrutiny into closed state institutions where detainees are dependent on others for their treatment and care cannot be underestimated, especially where there is evidence of ill treatment. This is crucial for public confidence in an accountable state but also for the uncovering of systemic and individual failings and abuses of power.”


For media enquiries please contact Matthew Leidecker on 07950 387 130 or by email to

Spokespeople are available for broadcast interview.

Detention Action’s briefing on the Brook House abuse judgement and the time limit on immigration detention is available here.


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