G4S ‘will not seek to renew’ contracts to run immigration detention centres

G4S is pulling out of running immigration detention centres and will not bid to renew its contracts.

The private security firm confirmed it will cease operating the scandal-hit Brook House centre as well as Tinsley House, which are both by Gatwick Airport in West Sussex, once its current contract with the Government ends – thought to be next year.

Instead the part of the business which carries out custody work will focus on running prisons, while other areas of the company will continue to operate security contracts.

The news comes as inspectors found there was “no culture of abuse” among current staff at Brook House, but there was still a raft of improvements that needed to be made.

A company spokeswoman said: “G4S will not seek to renew the contract to run Gatwick’s Immigration Removal Centres, Brook House and Tinsley House.

“This will allow us to give greater focus to our custody and rehabilitation business, where we operate four of the highest-rated prisons in England and Wales.”

The Home Office said it would be “inappropriate to comment on an ongoing procurement process”.

The BBC Panorama programme broadcast undercover footage in September 2017 showing alleged assaults, humiliation and verbal abuse of detainees by officers at the G4S-run centre.

It aired around 10 months after an inspection in 2016 by the prisons watchdog.

In a report on the first inspection since the programme was broadcast, the chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said: “We found no evidence that the abusive culture shown by the Panorama programme was present among the current staff group at Brook House.”

He said despite the “very serious problems” Brook House has faced over the past two years, it was “to the credit of the leadership and staff that they have been determined to prevent any recurrence of poor behaviour or abuse, and to inject an appropriately respectful culture into the centre, supported by improved training, better supervision of staff, and positive relationships with the detainees”.

There was no evidence the previous inspection “could or should have found anything similar to what was exposed by the programme”, he added.

Inspectors judged the centre as “reasonably good” in all areas, noting the number of men held there has almost halved from 400 to 240 since 2016 and more staff have been hired.

But amid the praise, they found there was “still much to do”, highlighting concerns about the welfare of detainees and the restrictions they faced in custody, while the report showed the centre had failed to meet 19 recommendations made during the previous inspection.

The complaints process was criticised after just one out of 95 made was upheld in the six months before the visits in May and June with the report saying replies often took an “unhelpfully defensive and legalistic approach”.

This was despite inspectors seeing “clear examples where a complaint should have been upheld”, adding that there had “clearly been the wrong decision” in some cases.

Instances of self-harm “had significantly increased” and last year nearly 100 detainees “had been on constant watch to prevent self-harm or suicide,” the report said.

Inspectors found 40% of the 67 detainees questioned by inspectors admitted feeling suicidal at some point during their time at the centre and recommended doctors report any concerns about detainees feeling suicidal to the Home Office.

“Sluggish casework and delays in obtaining suitable accommodation and travel documents prolonged detention” with evidence this affected wellbeing, the report added.

While “welfare provision was a strength of the centre and generally met the needs of detainees”, there were “still some unnecessary obstructions for detainees preparing either for their release or removal from the UK”.

This included “needlessly” blocking some websites like sites offering legal advice and information on immigration as well as some daily newspaper sites for “unfathomable reasons”.

The report added: “This has been a longstanding issue and resolution is well overdue.”

Inspectors also found “insufficient attention was paid to matters of equality and diversity” with “no systematic approach” to recording the protected characteristics of detainees.

The report said this needed to change after official data showed one LGBT detainee was held during 2019, but the survey by inspectors found five who said they were gay, six who were bisexual and seven who were transgender or transsexual.

Last month the Home Office failed in a bid to challenge a High Court ruling over the terms of an investigation into the alleged abuse at Brook House.

Following the Panorama programme, two former detainees – identified only as MA and BB – successfully argued that a full independent investigation into “systemic and institutional failures” was needed “to ensure fact-finding, accountability and lesson-learning”.

Fourteen members of G4S staff were dismissed or resigned in the wake of the broadcast and the Home Office asked the prisons and probation ombudsman (PPO) to carry out an investigation.

The inquiry has been delayed pending the legal action.

In July the National Audit Office found G4S made £14.3 million in profit from Brook House between 2012 and 2018.

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