Brook House Inquiry Report published: dangerous use of force, safeguard failure and culture of dehumanisation led to 19 instances of inhuman or degrading treatment at immigration detention centre

The Brook House Inquiry (BHI) has published its Report on its investigation into allegations that people held in immigration detention were subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment following undercover footage as broadcasted by the BBC in 2017.

At the press conference yesterday following the key findings in the published report, the Chair of Brook House Inquiry called for introduction of the detention time-limit in light of the dysfunctional system of safeguards and ‘abject failure’ of the Home Office and contractors in protecting detained persons from the likely risk of mistreatment and actual harm.

The BHI Inquiry exposed the dehumanising abuse of vulnerable people held in immigration detention by the Home Office with the “dysfunctional” and “wholesale failure” of the safeguarding system in place resulting in a failure to protect detained people as intended. There were 19 incidents of credible breaches of Article 3 of the ECHR, which prohibits torture, inhuman and degrading treatment within a 5 month period.

The report detailed the “toxic….culture of dehumanisation of detained people” prevailing at Brook House, fuelled by the “prisonisation” of the centre seen as a “breeding ground for racist views.”

The Chair criticised how force was used unnecessarily, inappropriately and excessively in widespread cases, including on those who were mentally or physically unwell. Such techniques used dangerously or with increased the risk of injury had not been sufficiently scrutinised until the Inquiry, due to a “culture of silence” amongst officers.

The Inquiry unequivocally found the crucial safeguarding responsibility lay with the Home Office, and to a further extent, with the various contractors outsourced by Brook House. The Inquiry chair made 33 recommendations for ‘necessary’ changes at Brook House and immigration detention more widely, the vast majority of which are directed to the Home Office or the government more generally.

These included:

A 28-day time limit on immigration detention given the negative impact of detention on detained person’s health and wellbeing.

A fundamental review of the safeguarding framework under Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001. The Inquiry found a wholesale failure of the safeguard in 2017 and no significant improvement since.

A comprehensive review of the use of force.

Training for healthcare staff on their safeguarding role including in relation to the use of force, Rule 34 and Rule 35.

Review of range of policies including on segregation, food & fluid refusals.

The Inquiry has stated that it will provide a copy of the report to the General Medical Council, indicating the severity of its findings.

At a time when the government are planning a large expansion in immigration detention, the Chair noted that ‘any expansion or other change [in immigration detention] should be considered in the context of learning lessons from past failures’: ‘Lessons must be learned’.

Shu Shin Luh  and Laura Profumo were instructed by Hamish Arnott of Bhatt Murphy for 5 formerly detained people and Medical Justice as Core Participants with Stephanie Harrison KC of Garden Court Chambers.

Jude Bunting KC represented the BBC and Callum Tulley whose undercover reporting for Panorama exposed the abuse and mistreatment at the centre in 2017.


For further information on immigration detention and  detailed coverage of the Brook House Inquiry Report by core participant Medical Justice, see here

For further enquiries, please contact our Senior Civil Clerk Sian Wilkins