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The background to this Inquiry

  1. On 4 September 2017, the BBC broadcast a Panorama programme called ‘Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets’ (referred to in this Report as ‘the Panorama programme’). This had been filmed covertly over five months at Brook House, an immigration removal centre (IRC) near Gatwick Airport in Sussex. Containing disturbing footage, the documentary portrayed Brook House as violent, dysfunctional and unsafe. It showed the use of abusive, racist and derogatory language by some staff towards those in their care, the effects of illicit drugs, and the use of force by staff on mentally and physically unwell detained people.
  2. Following the broadcast of the Panorama programme, a series of investigations were conducted, including a special investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) in 2019, which I led. On 5 November 2019, the Home Secretary announced that the PPO’s special investigation would be converted to a statutory inquiry under section 15 of the Inquiries Act 2005, and that I was to be appointed as the Chair of the Inquiry.
  3. In her written ministerial statement establishing the Inquiry, the Home Secretary drew attention to the shocking nature of the Panorama footage and to the Government’s commitment to learn from what took place at Brook House:

“The Government takes any allegation of mistreatment, and the welfare of immigration detainees, very seriously, and I want to establish the facts of what took place at Brook House and ensure that lessons are learnt to prevent these shocking events happening again.”

(Immigration Statement, Priti Patel MP (Home Secretary),5 November 2019

  1. The Terms of Reference of the Inquiry and its methodology are set out in Appendix 1 in Volume III of this Report. As I made clear when I determined the scope of this Inquiry, I would be led where the evidence took me. This has remained my approach throughout.
  2. It is not possible to appreciate the true nature of the events that took place without viewing the footage received by the Inquiry – albeit that it is often very distressing to watch. Therefore, this Report must be read alongside this key evidence (particularly in relation to the incidents in Part C, which are also listed in Appendix 6 in Volume III), in order for my findings to be fully understood and to be put into their proper context.
  3. I am mindful that the Home Office has now transferred the management of Brook House from G4S Care and Justice Services (UK) Ltd (G4S) to Serco Group PLC (Serco), and that the relevant period was around six years ago. Consequently, I also considered current practice where it was necessary for me to make recommendations for the future. While this Inquiry has not been an investigation into wider current practice within Brook House or into immigration detention more generally, it is concerning that the Inquiry has identified evidence that suggests that many of the issues present during the relevant period persist under Serco’s management of Brook House.
  4. Where matters have arisen of wider application to the treatment of those detained for immigration purposes, I have considered them. However, this has not been, nor should it be considered to be, an investigation into wider current practice within Brook House or into immigration detention more generally.
  5. The Home Office has reiterated its desire to learn lessons from this Inquiry. I consider this to be a particularly important function of this Inquiry, not least because one of the key themes to emerge is how often lessons have not been learnt in the past. This failure runs as a dark thread throughout this Report.