Public inquiry launched into abuse allegations at immigration detention centre

A public inquiry is to be held into allegations of abuse at a scandal-hit immigration detention centre.

The investigation will have legal powers to compel witnesses to give evidence about what happened at G4S-run Brook House, following a BBC Panorama programme which broadcast undercover footage in September 2017 showing alleged assaults, humiliation and verbal abuse of detainees by officers.

Announcing the news to Parliament in a written ministerial statement, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the inquiry would investigate the “mistreatment of detainees”.

She added: “The Government takes any allegation of mistreatment, and the welfare of immigration detainees, very seriously, and I want to establish the facts of what took place at Brook House (pictured) and ensure that lessons are learnt to prevent these shocking events happening again.”

After the programme was broadcast, two former detainees – identified only as MA and BB – successfully argued 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.

But there were concerns this was being conducted behind closed doors with G4S officers not being required to give evidence if they did not want to.

In August a High Court judge ruled a public inquiry was necessary to make sure witnesses gave evidence. The Home Office failed in a bid to challenge the ruling.

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

G4S announced in September it was pulling out of running immigration detention centres and would not be bidding to renew its contracts.

This meant the private security firm would cease running Brook House as well as Tinsley House, which are both next to Gatwick Airport in West Sussex, once its current contract with the Government ends next year.

During the latest visit, the chief inspector of prisons 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.

The inquiry is expected to take place within a year and will particularly look at the claims made by MA and BB.

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