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Other key organisations at Brook House

  1. As one of the few non-governmental organisations with a presence on the ground at Brook House, and the only one concerned with general welfare, Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (GDWG) was particularly important to the experience of detained people at Brook House.
  2. GDWG provides a range of emotional and practical support to detained people at Gatwick IRCs, which includes offering friendship and support, advocating for fair treatment, and calling for positive change in conditions.1 It includes a team of advocacy coordinators who match volunteers with detained people, refer detained people to external agencies and help them to navigate the detention system (including how to use complaints processes and raise concerns with Brook House management); and a team of volunteer visitors, who provide emotional and practical support for detained people with whom they are matched, and visit them regularly.2
  3. Several detained people described GDWG in positive terms and emphasised the importance of its role at Brook House.3 There were, however, a number of occasions prior to and during the relevant period in which the Home Office and G4S took a defensive and heavy-handed approach towards GDWG.

39.1 There was a negative reaction to a GDWG Advocacy Coordinator, Ms Naomi Blackwell, providing a witness statement in support of a detained person’s judicial review in October 2015.4Although this was, in my view, a reasonable thing for GDWG to do, it was regularly brought up by G4S and the Home Office as a criticism.5 Mr James Wilson, Director of GDWG during the relevant period, was told by G4S that GDWG should not be providing witness statements in support of detained people’s legal cases.6

39.2 ‘Drop in’ meetings took place in legal visit rooms once an appointment was made, meaning that detained people had to go through a security search and be given access through a barred gate.7 A proposal by GDWG in February 2017 for it to have a desk in Brook House alongside Welfare Officers was rejected, although Ms Anna Pincus, current Director of GDWG, noted that Serco was considering the possibility of GDWG having drop-in sessions in the library going forward.8 In 2016 and 2017, GDWG staff were restricted by G4S and the Home Office to only having one drop-in session with each detained person, unless there were exceptional circumstances.9Although there was some dispute about whether a February 2016 draft Memorandum of Understanding, setting out this position, had been agreed, by the time of the relevant period both parties appeared to be proceeding on the basis of the February 2016 version, but were in discussion about a revised version being agreed.10

39.3 I cannot see any good reason why repeat drop-in visits were not allowed during the relevant period and think that this was most likely an example of G4S and the Home Office seeking to restrict the role of GDWG.11 Although GDWG could make requests for repeat visits where it was considered particularly important, there was one occasion in which this was refused by Mr Daniel Haughton, G4S Support Services Manager during the relevant period, due to “scrutiny from outside” and concerns that it had developed into a welfare surgery.12 He said: “From the Home Office’s point of view this [is] not the purpose of your drop-in.13 On another occasion, Mr Haughton refused the request because “drop-in clinics are not the place to maintain regular contacts with detainees”, which was said to be due to a “shared understanding” that regular contact should instead take place in the context of social visits.14 At a meeting in June 2017, Mr Skitt (Deputy Director of Brook House during the relevant period) complained that GDWG was requesting repeated drop-ins.15 The consequence of this, according to Ms Pincus, was that GDWG felt deterred from making requests during the relevant period, despite describing repeat visits as “crucial” for building up trust and rapport.16

39.4 In August 2017, Ms Pincus asked Mr Haughton whether G4S would consider moving a detained person from Brook House to Tinsley House to help him cope better with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).17 Mr Skitt complained that this was an example of a concern being raised to the right person in the wrong way,18 which Ms Pincus described as an illustration of a “broken culture” in management at Brook House.19

39.5 At a meeting in August 2017, Mr Skitt and Mr Paul Gasson (Home Office Contract Monitor) said that they were seriously considering ending GDWG’s drop-in surgeries,20 and complained about emails from GDWG staff about a detained person with burn injuries and another detained person who they thought might be underage.21 Mr Wilson said that he was also told they should not be referring detained people to other agencies.22 He described the meeting as being “tantamount to bullying towards me and towards GDWG” and described Mr Skitt and Mr Gasson as being very heated, shouting at points, and banging the table.((James Wilson 10 December 2021 53/21-54/20, 60/4-61/10, 78/15-79/6) Immediately after the meeting, Mr Wilson emailed colleagues, describing it as a “gruelling meeting” and saying that their drop-ins were on a “knife-edge” so staff should go through him with any concerns, even though that sounded “quite draconian”.23 Mr Gasson rejected these allegations and thought his approach to GDWG was reasonable.24

  1. In circumstances when they should have welcomed GDWG’s input in providing welfare support to detained people and alerting them to concerns, the Home Office and G4S appeared reluctant to allow either. Although there were a number of occasions on which Mr Wilson referred to these meetings in fairly positive terms at the time, I am satisfied that this was an attempt by him to use “positive and diplomatic” language to try and build or maintain relationships.25 In my view, it is likely that the behaviour of G4S and the Home Office towards GDWG had an impact on how it advocated for detained people, including generating fear about raising complaints in case it led to access being further restricted.26 It is likely that this behaviour came as a result of a steer given by senior managers at Brook House and the Home Office.27 Had a more open approach been taken, this would have benefited detained people and also those managing Brook House, as they might have been assisted in gauging the mood of detained people.28


  1. DPG000002_002-004 paras 7-13[]
  2. DPG000002_003-004 paras 10-11; DPG000002_008-009 para 20; INQ000027_001-002 paras 1-5[]
  3. D668 22 February 2022 68/14; DPG000023_010 para 37; DPG000040_010 para 43; Anton Bole 8 December 2021 160/1-10; SER000455_022 para 60; SER000453_057 para 253[]
  4. James Wilson 10 December 2021 31/11-32/3; GDW000001_006 para 18; GDW000001_008 para 25[]
  5. DPG000002_059-061 paras 167-169; James Wilson 10 December 2021 9/6-10/20; GDW000001_006 para 18; GDW000001_009-010 para 29[]
  6. GDW000001_008 para 25[]
  7. DPG000002_013 para 30[]
  8. James Wilson 10 December 2021 5/20-8/23; GDW000001_009 para 27; Anna Pincus 9 December 2021 14/5-17, 94/8-24; DPG000017_002-003 paras 6-11; DPG000018[]
  9. As described at the start of the paragraph, these were a meeting between a detained person and a member of staff from GDWG in a private room. These differed from visits, which took place in a communal room and were with a GDWG volunteer visitor. See Anna Pincus 9 December 2021 19/22- 20/10; GDW000003_001[]
  10. James Wilson 10 December 2021 15/14-20, 20/10-14; DPG000044; HOM0332156; DPG000042_002 para 4; GDW000003_010-012; GDW000003_13; GDW000003_018-020; GDW000003_027; GDW000003_029; GDW000003_034; James Wilson 10 December 2021 16/24-17/7; HOM0332150[]
  11. At the time of the Inquiry’s hearings, GDWG was able to make repeat visits without seeking permission from Serco (which now manages Brook House): Anna Pincus 9 December 2021 36/14-17. DPG000002_016-017 paras 37-39; VER000290[]
  12. DPG000002_019 paras 43-45[]
  13. GDW000003_027[]
  14. GDW000003_015[]
  15. James Wilson 10 December 2021 38/15-39/9; GDW000001_013 para 39; DPG000003_014 para 42[]
  16. Anna Pincus 9 December 2021 28/8-29/4, 31/15-22; DPG000002_017 para 39; DPG000002_019 para 43[]
  17. GDW000003_033[]
  18. GDW000001_014-015 para 44[]
  19. Anna Pincus 9 December 2021 48/19-50/2; VER000249_015; DPG000002_062 paras 173-174[]
  20. James Wilson 10 December 2021 53/10-16; GDW000001_014-015 paras 44-45; GDW000001_18 paras 53-54[]
  21. James Wilson 10 December 2021 45/11-48/4; GDW000003_036-037; GDW000001_015-016 paras 46-48[]
  22. James Wilson 10 December 2021 49/1-50/1; GDW000001_017 para 50; GDW000001_019 para 57; GDW000003_045-46[]
  23. GDW000008[]
  24. Paul Gasson 15 March 2022 215/11; HOM0332152_027 para 103[]
  25. GDW000003_011; GDW000003_029; GDW000003_040; James Wilson 10 December 2021 13/1-22,40/18-41/1, 59/4-60/3[]
  26. DPG000002_058 paras 163-164[]
  27. SER000453_047-048 para 217a[]
  28. Anna Pincus 9 December 2021 50/14-23; DPG000002_063 para 176[]