WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 12 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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‘Spend a day here and you’re going to develop mental health issues,’ Home Office worker tells Brook House inquiry

‘Spend a day here and you’re going to develop mental health issues,’ Home Office worker tells Brook House inquiry

An immigration detention centre where vulnerable men were subjected to ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’ should be ‘shut down for good’, a public inquiry has been told.

The Brook House Inquiry was established to investigate alleged mistreatment of detainees at the Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), following a 2017 BBC investigation.

Over 46 days, the inquiry heard evidence from over 75 witnesses including former detainees, custody officers, Home Office officials and independent experts. The inquiry also heard from G4S staff, the private security firm then contracted by the Home Office to run the centre.

In her closing remarks, Stephanie Harrison QC, who represents former Brook House detainees, said it was ‘disconcerting’ to hear custody officers maintain ‘patently untrue accounts’ in oral evidence, or claim ‘no memory in the face of incontrovertible evidence of misconduct and cover-up’, noting that several of the officers still work at Brook House. ‘This inquiry should conclude that Brook House must not be used as an IRC going forward,’ she said.

Describing the evidence as ‘harrowing’, Harrison told the inquiry it exposed ‘shocking patterns of inhumane and degrading treatment of detained persons, central to which is the overuse and misuse of force and segregation, often without lawful authority or justification, and segregation used as punishment.’

‘The normalisation of the infliction of pain, suffering and humiliation, even whilst detained when naked. In addition, we’ve seen extensive evidence of the pervasive violent, derogatory and debasing verbal abuse.’

Ms Harrison went on to label the Home Office a state body that ‘relegates safeguarding of detainees to a virtual footnote in a contract that puts cost-cutting over safety and care.’

The inquiry heard evidence from Home Office official Ian Castle, who referred to Brook House as ‘not a nice place to be’. ‘I think, if you spend more than 24 hours in Brook House, you’re going to develop mental health issues,’ he said. Dr Rachel Bingham of charity Medical Justice told the inquiry that the combination of conditions in Brook House was a ‘perfect storm’ for abuse and ill-treatment of vulnerable people. Clinical expert to the inquiry Dr James Hard agreed.

In her closing remarks, Chair to the Inquiry Kate Eves underlined the importance of remembering the human element behind the investigation. ‘I want to emphasise that at the very centre of this inquiry are the men who were detained at Brook House (…) who should have been treated with respect and dignity.’

Further written evidence is expected to be submitted by the end of the month, with a timetable for the next phase of the inquiry yet to be released.