TWO MEN who were abused by G4S staff at a notorious immigration detention centre won the first stage of their legal battle for an independent public inquiry today.
One, identified only as MA, who suffers from a “serious mental illness which was exacerbated” in detention, claims he was unlawfully held for 98 days between March and June last year, the High Court heard.
During this time, he was “subjected to intentional assaults, humiliation and degradation” by officers at Brook House immigration detention centre.
He and a fellow former Brook House detainee, identified as BB, were granted permission for a judicial review in their pursuit of an independent inquiry into “systemic failures” in immigration detention centres.
They both appeared in an explosive BBC Panorama documentary last September, which led to 10 members of staff being suspended after abuse and assaults against detainees were captured by undercover cameras.
Court documents reveal that Yan Paschali has been interviewed under caution in relation to footage seemingly showing him digging his fingers into MA’s neck while whispering: “Don’t move, you fucking piece of shit. I’m going to put you to sleep.”
Stephanie Harrison QC, for MA, said that the “institutional, systemic failures” shown by the Panorama documentary demanded a public inquiry.
She said that pursuing a civil action would be “confined to the individual wrongdoing [against MA and BB] … it would not be about lessons learned, it would not be about systemic failure,” nor would it result in any criminal proceedings.
Ms Harrison added that there had been an increase in Brook House’s population “because other detention centres are being closed down,” and that the Home Office had “specifically deferred a decision on the long-term future” of the facility.
Earlier this month, the Home Office extended G4S’s contract to run Brook House and another centre by two years.
Nick Armstrong, for BB, said of the broadcast: “Not only are you seeing widespread, high-end abuse, you are seeing it by a significant number of people … and you are seeing it all over the centre.”
In written submissions, he added that BB alleged “officers were selling Spice,” a synthetic cannabinoid which has been widely linked to violence in Britain’s jails.
Lisa Giovannetti QC, for the Home Secretary, said it was “patently obvious that we are taking it seriously and taking reasonable steps.”
Nonetheless, Mr Justice Holman granted permission for a judicial review to be heard by the end of October.
Medical Justice spokeswoman Emma Ginn said she was “delighted” with the decision and called on the Home Office to “accept its part of the responsibility for failing to identify or stop these abuses.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott was not surprised that the Panorama documentary had opened up legal challenges.
“There have been reports of abuses of immigration detainees across the system,” she said.
“Labour in government is committed to closing Brook House and the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centres.”
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