The ongoing inquiry into conditions at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre has heard that senior staff likely knew custody officers were smuggling drugs to detainees.
A former member of staff at the removal centre, which was subject to an investigation by BBC Panorama in 2017, has alleged that management ‘knew who was bringing in drugs, but they were not doing anything about it’.
The inquiry has heard that the availability of drugs within Brook House, in particular spice and cannabis contributed to the poor mental health of detainees. As previously reported by the Justice Gap, several former staff members have alleged that custody officers themselves smuggled drugs and other contraband into the centre.
Shayne Munroe, speaking to the inquiry triggered by the Panorama documentary, said her reports of drugs and other contraband went unheeded: ‘Whenever a detainee told me about staff bringing in drugs or contraband, I submitted an SIR [Security Information Report]. I never saw that anything was done (e.g., increased staff searches when entering the building) and I came to the view that the security team and senior management must have been aware that it was going on but were choosing to ignore it.’
She also told the panel that staff were not searched on entering the premises, indeed that she was only searched once during her 18 month tenure: ‘Brook House policies seemed to make no impact on drugs entering the centre. In my view the volume of drugs that were available could not have entered solely through visitors, which meant that somewhere in the process Brook House policies were being broken.’
The inquiry has also heard allegations of racism and bullying by staff at the centre, with Munroe stating during this hearing that she was accused of smuggling in drugs herself: ‘It was assumed that I was involved in drugs because I was a black woman from South London.’
Further former staff members and detainees of Brook House are due to give evidence in this second stage of the hearing, with the panel re-convening next week.