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Brook House Public Inquiry Hearings Begin (22 November 2021)

Date: 22/11/2021
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Brook House Public Inquiry Hearings Begin

The Brook House Inquiry will commence public hearings on 23 November 2021.

The Inquiry, unprecedented in nature, is the first public inquiry into immigration detention in the UK. It will investigate the decisions, actions and circumstances surrounding the mistreatment and abuse of detainees in Brook House Immigration Removal Centre in 2017.

The Inquiry will hear from formerly detained individuals about their experience of abuse that took place at Brook House.

The mistreatment was first exposed in the BBC Panorama programme “Under-Cover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets”, aired on 4 September 2017 can be watched here.

The programme followed an undercover detention officer secretly filming inside Brook House on behalf of the BBC. The footage revealed repeated, routine and appalling mistreatment and abuse including racial abuse of detainees by officers. Most shockingly, it showed one officer strangling a detainee, ‘MA’, and threatening to put him “to sleep” before detention and healthcare staff conspired to cover it up. MA was a suicidal detainee with a history of severe mental-ill health and trauma. He was being observed on ‘constant supervision’ at the time of the assault.

Chaired by Kate Eves, an independent investigator with over 20 years’ experience in the detention field, the Inquiry aims to understand what happened at Brook House IRC during this time and to make recommendations that prevent anything like it from happening again.

The Inquiry was set up in November 2019, following the successful judicial review challenge brought by Duncan Lewis Solicitors and Deighton Pierce Glynn, on behalf of two former detainees MA and BB earlier in 2019.

In that judicial review the judge, May J stated:

“Finally, immigration detainees are a uniquely vulnerable group of people. They are not convicted persons serving a sentence, they are not being detained as punishment. Unlike most prisoners, they do not know for how long they are going to be confined. Detention under these conditions is diminishing and depersonalising enough, but it is unacceptably degrading and dehumanising where there is repeated and apparently casual abuse on the part of staff employed by the state to supervise and look after such detainees. It is right, in those circumstances, to afford the abused detainee an opportunity to see and confront their abuser on equal terms, as a means of restoring dignity and respect to the person from whom it has been so wholly stripped away. This exposure and confrontation is an important psychological restorative.”

The Inquiry is the first of its kind under the Inquiries Act 2005 into immigration detention in the UK. The public hearings will take place in two phases between November 2021 and March 2022 and will hear from formerly detained individuals about their experience of the mistreatment and abuse that took place at Brook House. The hearings will also hear from other individuals such as Callum Tulley, who secretly filmed the abuse shown in the BBC Panorama programme, and will include opening statements from the Chair, Kate Eves; Lead Counsel to the Inquiry, Brian Altman QC; and a range of non-government organisations.

The hearings will be held at the Inquiry’s premises within the International Dispute Resolution Centre, 1 Paternoster Lane, London, EC4M 7BQ. Hearings can also be viewed via the livestream on the Inquiry’s YouTube channel and a transcript will be uploaded to the Inquiry website following each day's hearings: https://brookhouseinquiry.org.uk/news

Duncan Lewis represents 13 Core Participants and Witnesses to the Inquiry, the majority of which are former detainees at Brook House IRC during the relevant period and who experienced bullying, racist abuse or being physically assaulted.

Public Law Solicitor, Lewis Kett, who represents the clients said: “It has now been 4 years since BBC Panorama exposed the horrendous physical, verbal and mental abuse suffered by our clients and many other vulnerable individuals detained at Brook House IRC. The problems at Brook House appears to have been long-standing, where detainees have been held in harsh and prison-like conditions, being looked after by staff that were under-resourced and where many where unsympathetic to detainee vulnerabilities and past trauma. There are serious questions that need answering by the Home Office and G4S not only in respect of individual instances of abuse, but in understanding the systemic and deep-rooted issues that allowed such abuse to occur. The Inquiry will need to investigate and come to conclusions on how best to safeguard those held in administrative and indefinite detention, and how it can be prevented in future. It may be that centres such as Brook House simply are not capable of holding immigration detainees safely and humanely for any period of time.”

These Core Participants and Witnesses are represented by Duncan Lewis’s Public Law team including Lewis Kett, Nicholas Hughes, Lottie Hume, Charlotte McLean, Jamie Bell, Frankie Boon, Emma Dawson, Hannah Baynes, Krisha Prathepan and Isolde Hill. We have instructed Stephanie Harrison QC, Una Morris, Louise Hooper, Gordon Lee and Alex Schymyck of Garden Court Chambers, and Alex Goodman of Landmark Chambers.

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