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High Court rules in favour of Duncan Lewis Solicitors challenge to the Home Office’s “lock-in” regime in Brook House IRC (5 February 2018)

Date: 05/02/2018
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, High Court rules in favour of Duncan Lewis Solicitors challenge to the Home Office’s “lock-in” regime in Brook House IRC

Duncan Lewis Solicitors’ Public Law team led a challenge against the Home Office on behalf of two former-detainees, which on 1 February 2018 the High Court ruled in favour of, forcing the Home Office to take responsibility for the unlawful conditions within detention centre Brook House.

The Claimants brought the challenge on the grounds that having a “pragmatic” policy on allowing smoking inside Brook House is unlawful and that locking detainees up for more than 13 hours a day in unsanitary, poorly ventilated and overcrowded cells is in breach of the Equality Act 2010 and in violation of fundamental human rights.

Duncan Lewis’ Public Law team represented the Claimants, Mr Hussein and Mr Rahman, in their challenge. The Claimants argued that forcing Muslim detainees to practice Islam by praying next to unscreened toilets in their cells during the “lock-in” period is discriminatory. The High Court has recognised that this practice, whilst being unsanitary, is also an adverse environment for devout individuals to practice Islam properly. Mr Justice Holman ruled that by allowing this, the Home Office were indirectly discriminating against these detainees and their right to practice their religion.

The Claimants also argued that the Home Office’s ‘practical’ policy on smoking inside cells is unlawful and poses a serious health risk. Under the Health Act 2006 and the Smoke-free Regulations 2007 smoking is prohibited in all public places, except private prisons. The legislation does not directly refer to privately run immigration detention centres as either exempt or liable under its ruling, which up until now has resulted in unclear judgments. This High Court ruling, in stating that the Home Office is unlawful in allowing smoking inside immigration removal centres, will inform future judgments on this legislation.

Lewis Kett, Duncan Lewis Public Law solicitor representing the Claimants in this case comments:

“We welcome the findings that the home secretary has had absolutely no regard to the potential discriminatory effect of the lock-in regime at Brook House on Muslim detainees and their right to properly practise their religion.”

Lewis worked alongside Sheroy Zaq, solicitor, Director Toufique Hossain, trainee solicitors Puja Nandi, Dania Jawaid and caseworker Lottie Hume, all of Duncan Lewis solicitors.

Counsel in this case were Counsel Stephanie Harrison QC, Raza Halim and Stephen Simblet of Garden Court Chambers.

Duncan Lewis Public Law Solicitors

The Duncan Lewis Public Law Department has been recommended by Legal 500 2017, with particular praise for their work successfully challenging policies under which vulnerable individuals are detained in immigration detention centres. By way of judicial review, the Public Law Department challenges decisions made by public bodies which would otherwise be non-appealable. These can be central or local government, or other organisations carrying out public functions.

The Public Law team have experience in all aspects of judicial review claimant work, including obtaining emergency orders and other interim relief to prevent breaches of human rights, following up judicial reviews with actions for damages in both the County and High Court and successfully pursuing judicial review matters to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Our Public Law solicitors conduct all stages of such matters from initial pre-action correspondence to filing, conducting and settling claims and costs negotiations and litigation. Duncan Lewis solicitors carry out both publicly and privately funded work.

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