The High Court has today handed down a judgment requiring the Home Office to do more to hold an effective inquiry into abuses at Brook House, an immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport, in 2017.
BBC Panorama revealed the abuses in a programme in September 2017. The Home Office immediately described them as “appalling” and that it was determined to learn all lessons. It appointed the Prison and Probation Ombudsman to carry out a bespoke inquiry. However victims of that abuse, together with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said that the powers conferred on the Ombudsman were insufficient for the inquiry to be effective. The Ombudsman was intending to do an inquiry in line with usual and previous inquiries, none of which had proved capable of identifying the problems before. Two victims, supported by the Commission, brought proceedings challenging the limited powers of the inquiry.
In her judgment May J agreed. The inquiry had to have the power to compel witnesses (not least because a number of key witnesses had already failed to cooperate with internal inquiries), and there needed to be arrangements, and funding, for victims to be represented and involved with questioning of witnesses.
A copy of the judgment can be found here. Nick Armstrong with Jesse Nicholls, instructed by Joanna Thomson of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors, represented the claimant BB. Stephanie Harrison QC and Alex Goodman, instructed by Lewis Kett of Duncan Lewis solicitors, represented the Claimant MA. Dan Squires QC was instructed by EHRC for the intervenor.