Sussex

Brook House 'abuse' detainees challenge Home Office

Covert footage was filmed inside Brook House, near Gatwick Airport
Image caption Covert footage was filmed inside Brook House, near Gatwick Airport

Two former detainees have taken the Home Office to the High Court over alleged abuse at G4S-run Brook House immigration removal centre.

The Home Office has asked the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) to hold an investigation, but the men say human rights laws require a public inquiry.

They argue the PPO probe cannot compel witnesses to give evidence and will only have minimal victim participation.

Staff at the facility near Gatwick were filmed by an undercover BBC reporter.

Panorama footage shown in September 2017 showed alleged assaults, humiliation and verbal abuse of detainees by officers at the centre.

At least six staff members were dismissed by G4S.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Staff at the facility were filmed by an undercover reporter

The men bringing the case, who are known as MA and BB, are backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Nick Armstrong, representing BB, said: "Only a proper independent investigation, with powers of compulsion, public questioning of witnesses and meaningful victim involvement... will suffice to ensure fact-finding, accountability and lesson-learning."

He said further allegations by a number of ex-detainees included deliberate and unjustified use of force by staff, repeated segregation of detainees with serious mental ill-health and endemic drug use facilitated and tolerated by staff.

Stephanie Harrison QC, representing MA, said the most effective way to secure a prompt and effective inquiry was for the court to order one.

She said the Home Office had refused to accept "any meaningful role for MA in the investigation".

Image caption The Home Office has asked the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) to investigate

In written submissions, Lisa Giovanetti QC, representing the Home Office, said the government accepts "the nature of the allegations are such that it would be appropriate to conduct an investigation which looks into systemic issues".

She said a full inquiry risked "not producing a sufficiently prompt or flexible response tailored to meet the specific needs of the case".

She said the PPO was an appropriate body because of its "fundamental independence" and the need for its investigation to begin now and conclude swiftly was a "key reason" why a full inquiry was inappropriate.

Mrs Justice May will hear submissions over two days and is expected to reserve her judgement.

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