Duncan Lewis launches challenge to Home Secretary’s failure to instigate public inquiry into G4S abuse of detainees at Brook House IRC

Abbas was strangled by a G4S guard on TV, now he is taking the UK government to Court.

An immigration detainee has taken the UK government to court for failing to instigate a public inquiry into the abuse he and others suffered at the hands of guards at the G4S-run Brook House immigration detention centre.

In September 2017, BBC Panorama aired undercover footage of our client, under the pseudonym of “Abbas”, being strangled by a guard. The guard growls threateningly over Abbas: “don’t f***ing move you f***ing piece of sh*t. I’m going to put you to f***ing sleep.”

Ten members of G4S staff were immediately suspended, the centre director resigned, and the multinational security corporation issued a statement announcing an investigation into the abuse.

We have been here before.

Cut-and-paste

In a similar undercover report in 2015, Channel 4  exposed racist abuse at Yarl’s Wood, the women-only detention centre in Bedfordshire run by another multinational corporation, Serco. Serco commissioned an inquiry into “the culture and other issues relating to the treatment of residents at Yarl’s Wood.” The resulting report  cleared the company of any “endemic culture of abuse”.

The draft terms of reference for the investigation into abuse at Brook House have now been submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee. Not only has the same private consultancy firm been commissioned to carry out the investigation, but the remit and scope are strikingly similar to those of the investigation into Yarl’s Wood. Both task the firm with looking into their clients’ “operational policies, management and practice” to assess whether any abusive incidents were “isolated or reflective or a wider improper or inappropriate culture”, and both tie the hands of the investigative team such that the report “will not include matters of detention and Home Office policy.”

Someone has clearly mastered cut-and-paste.

A rotten house  

We will not accept yet another highly-restricted investigation by a private firm. G4S should have no control over the scope of the investigation or who carries it out. G4S is working on behalf of the government so the fact that the investigation doesn’t “include matters of detention and Home Office policy” renders it toothless and anaemic.

Clearly, any meaningful and effective investigation into Brook House must look into government policies and practice, including their contractual and outsourcing arrangements.

Of course, the violence of G4S officers is well-known. The multinational company recently made more headlines after detainees at Brook House were forced to defecate in front of their cellmates and Muslim detainees were forced to pray next to these open toilets. This series scandals has raised serious concerns about the outsourcing of public services to private companies. 

Ultimately, however, if a house is rotten you don’t just look at the ceiling; you need to check the roof. G4S is a turnkey, a hireling, a distraction. Responsibility for the detainees rests with the Home Office.

Getting to the truth

This is why Abbas is calling for a prompt and independent judicial inquiry, with all the attendant powers. We have written to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, reminding her that the duty to investigate inhuman and degrading treatment is contained in Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The UK government has replied, confirming that “it is satisfied that the investigations and complaints mechanisms already in place are sufficient to meet and discharge its Article 3 ECHR obligations…without the need for, for example, a public inquiry.”  

Abbas is not satisfied. He has issued a claim taking the UK government to the High Court, challenging their failure to instigate a comprehensive public inquiry which would meet the state’s Article 3 obligations.   

We need to know the full and unrestricted truth as to how G4S officers were able to abuse immigration detainees so openly and so violently.

British citizens should know what is being done in their name; Abbas deserves to know why he was treated like an animal.    

Abbas' case has been listed for a hearing in the High Court on 22 May. Please see our press release on the challenge.