Warning on ‘inadequate supervision’ of sex offenders at immigration removal centre

A watchdog has raised concerns over “inadequate supervision” of child sex offenders being held at an immigration removal centre.

In one case a detainee was transferred to prison following an allegation of grooming, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) said.

It identified the issue during an inspection of Colnbrook IRC (pictured) in west London.

“There had been inadequate supervision of some detainees who could have presented risks to children and others in the visits room and around the centre,” the inspectorate’s report said.

Inspectors examined the records of two detainees who had been convicted of child sex offences.

In both cases, a note was placed on the electronic records to the effect that visits should be supervised.

But inspectors spoke to staff supervising visits who were unaware that these records should be checked.

The report said: “No other measures were taken to supervise these detainees, one of whom was subsequently found downloading inappropriate content in the internet room.

“He was banned from further use of the facility, but no further restrictions were placed on him.

“He was transferred to prison some days later, when an allegation was made that he was grooming another detainee.”

Colnbrook IRC, which opened in 2004, is located close to Heathrow airport.

The centre, which is managed by Mitie Care & Custody on behalf of the Home Office, held 246 individuals at the time of the inspection in November and December last year.

HMIP found there had been a “very significant increase” in self-harm at the facility, while staff and detainees told inspectors the availability of drugs was a problem.

Detainees had been held for an average of 75 days, including time spent in a previous place of detention.

Some had lived in the UK for many years. In one case, the Home Office was seeking to deport an ex-offender who had lived in the UK since the age of three months.

HMIP examined 12 cases in detail, and concluded that in five, the Home Office had “failed to act diligently or expeditiously”.

In more positive findings, the inspectorate said detainees’ personal physical safety was “generally good”, there was a “calm atmosphere” and staff-detainee relationships had significantly improved since the last time the centre was inspected.

Facilities for sport and fitness activities were good, the report said, adding that a weekly session of yoga and mindfulness was offered.

Chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said: “One of the intractable problems at Colnbrook is that, with the exception of the women’s unit, the centre is largely indistinguishable from a prison, and prisons are rarely suitable environments for immigration detainees held under administrative as opposed to judicial powers.”

A Mitie spokeswoman said: “To ensure adequate supervision during family visits, adults with children now have a designated area in the visiting hall.

“Other detainees are not permitted in this area. Detainees known to be a potential risk due to previous offending behaviour are allocated visiting areas adjacent to staff to ensure they are adequately supervised.”

The spokeswoman said the inspectors “confirmed that the centre continues to improve”, adding: “Detainees were very positive about the way they are treated by our staff, who looked after them with decency and care.

“They also had access to a range of recreational activities as well as education or vocational training.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Tim Ockenden / PA Wire.