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  1. The Rules provide that a comprehensive range of activities must be provided so that detained people’s “recreational and intellectual needs” are met and “boredom” is relieved.1 It is important that attention is paid to providing detained people with sufficient activities and to ensuring that appropriate resources are available.
  2. The G4S Regimes and Activities Policy reflected the requirements set out in the Rules on access to activities at Brook House. It stated that detained people should have access to three periods of daily activity (in the morning, afternoon and evening).2 Available facilities provided by Brook House’s Activities Centre included cardio fitness areas, IT rooms, internet access, a library, educational classes, a music room, a pool table and games on the wings, outdoor sports in courtyards, a shop and multi-faith rooms.3 A gym was to be accessible in five pre-bookable sessions per day. There was also a ‘cultural kitchen’ to enable detained people to plan their own meals, cook and engage with each other.4
  3. However, in the 2016 IMB report, the Brook House IMB commented that there was a “noticeable shortage of space for activities” at Brook House.5 During its inspection in May–June 2022, HMIP found that, although there was a reasonable range of activities available, the number of places was not sufficient to occupy the population of Brook House, and the facilities such as classrooms, the gym and the cultural kitchen were too small.6 Thirty-seven per cent of detained people told HMIP that there was not enough to do to fill their time.7
  4. The limitations imposed by the physical environment at Brook House were recognised by staff.

42.1 Mr Stephen Skitt, Deputy Director of Brook House during the relevant period, recognised the effect on activities for detained people. He said that since Brook House was built to a Category B security standard:

“[it] is restricted to the confines of the building. It would always be nice to have more open space or a bigger gym, greater activity areas and more recreational areas, but this is not possible in terms of the space available.”8

42.2 Mr Hanford told the Inquiry that Brook House was “not designed to accommodate people for long periods of time” and that this affected the activities provided for detained people. There was “not enough space to provide activities for so many people for long periods”.9 In his view, there were insufficient activities in Brook House for 448 detained people, “let alone 508” (after 60 additional beds were introduced in early 2017).10

  1. In addition, the Inquiry heard evidence from staff that activities were substantially limited during the relevant period due to understaffing.

43.1 DCO Edmund Fiddy said that the Activities Centre should have had three members of staff but there were many occasions when there were only two, and therefore only the IT suite and library would be staffed.11

43.2 Mr Small, an Activities officer, told the Inquiry in his witness statement that Activities staff were required to cover staff breaks on the wings as well as staff sickness, and to accompany detained people to hospital.12 He said that the consequence of this was that the Activities team was short-staffed and detained people could not go outside or have access to equipment.13

43.3 DCO Kye Clarke said that there ought to have been more staff to run activities, particularly football and cricket, which were very popular. Unnecessarily early night-time lock-ins meant that detained people would have to stop watching televised sporting events halfway through.14

  1. The 2018 Verita report also found that activities were “under-resourced, poorly managed and further compromised by long-standing staffing problems”.15 The report stated:

“Activities available to detainees at Brook House do not meet the standard prescribed by rule 17(1) of the Detention Centre Rules 2001. The lack of activities and opportunities for exercise present a risk to detainees’ welfare and wellbeing and to the general safety and security of the centre.”16

  1. Mr Saunders accepted that staff should have been more proactive and should have organised activities better during G4S’s management of Brook House, but he said that staffing issues made it difficult.17
  2. This appeared to have been, in part, because activities were not seen as important by the Home Office or by G4S for detained people who were only supposed to be accommodated at Brook House for very short periods of time.

This was demonstrated by the lack of space allocated, understaffing and issues regarding general resourcing.18 The lack of activities led to an impoverished regime, which is likely to have contributed to the boredom and frustration felt by many detained people.

  1. The Inquiry was told, as discussed in Chapter D.2, that recent increased staffing levels and new contractual provisions permit a wider range of activities to take place under Serco’s management. Serco stated that there had been significant investment in the physical environment, including redecoration and refurbishment, as well as the installation of biometric turnstiles to control access to different parts of Brook House and of information kiosks with multiple language options.19 Mr Steven Dix, a Detention Custody Manager during the relevant period and now Assistant Director of Brook House, said that the numbers of Activities staff had increased since Serco took over the contract, and this had led to improvements for detained people.20
  2. Activities have been undervalued and under-resourced by G4S and the Home Office, so these are welcome developments. These efforts should continue in order to ensure that, as required under the Rules, detained people have “an opportunity to participate in activities to meet, as far as possible, their recreational and intellectual needs and the relief of boredom”.21 Activities are essential for detained people’s welfare, particularly where they are held for longer periods than those for which Brook House was designed.

Internet access

  1. The Rules do not contain any reference to computer or internet access, only to the use of telephone and post.22
  2. However, rights regarding the internet are reflected in Detention Services Order 04/2016: Detainee Access to the Internet (the Internet DSO), which states that detained people should have “reasonable and regulated access to the internet whilst ensuring that the security of the detention estate is not undermined”.23 Consequently, detention centres:

“must ensure that internet access enabled computer terminals are available to detainees 7 days a week for a minimum of 7 hours a day, though individual time slots may be limited if there is excessive demand”.24

  1. Computer and internet access at Brook House was poor and did not meet these requirements.
  2. There were problems with computer and internet speed, blocked websites and access to working computers. D687 told the Inquiry:

“I was trying to contact solicitors to get help with my case but the email provider I used was blocked on the computers in the IT suite. Staying in contact with people whilst detained at Brook House to [sic] be very difficult. The phones we were given weren’t smart phones and the reception at Brook House was awful. All this limited the ways you could contact people – friends, family, solicitors or charities supporting you. For people who didn’t have family in the UK, this was extremely difficult as the internet was the only way they could stay in touch with them.”25

  1. Internet access was restricted to the IT room and was supervised by DCOs.26
  2. In a conversation recorded by Mr Tulley, DCO Daniel Lake, another Activities officer, described the slowness of the computers as a “fucking joke” and was concerned that detained people would “kick off” as a result.27 Several anonymous complaints were made in July 2017 by detained people about slow and intermittent internet access.28 On 24 July 2017, G4S found the complaints “unsubstantiated” and stated that the internet speed was “satisfactory”.29 However, minutes from a Gatwick IRCs security meeting in August 2017 noted that they were “Still having issues with IT and slow speed of the detainee internet” and, having checked with Virgin and Openreach, that some of the problems were caused by detained people downloading films and due to the distance that Brook House was from the “hub”.30
  3. The Inquiry also heard from detained people who stated that internet access failed shortly before they or other detained people were deported on charter flights, which made it difficult for them to contact their lawyers.31 Mr Syred said that he did not notice “a pattern” to the intermittent internet access that was available at Brook House.32 Mr Riley was asked about this in his evidence to the Inquiry and he said that he had no knowledge of how that would even be possible.33 There was evidence that, in September 2017, the internet went down for a considerable period (four days) and that this was reported to the internet provider.34 However, the Inquiry did not hear enough evidence to determine whether or not internet access did fail before charter flights or, if it did, the reasons for this.
  4. The Internet DSO states that access to “any personal internet based email accounts will be provided to detainees, subject to the detainee signing up to the individual centre’s acceptable use policy for internet use”.35 However, Mr Lake told the Inquiry that the IT room was “useless as most websites were blocked and detainees couldn’t even access the documents they needed for their court hearings most of the time”.36 Only certain categories of website should have been prohibited, as set out in the Internet DSO, such as social networking, pornographic material, and extremist and radicalisation material.37 Personal email accounts should not have been blocked.35 Despite this, D687 gave evidence that several websites were blocked, including his email provider, which made it very difficult for him to contact his solicitor.38
  5. Mr Lake, in conversation with Mr Tulley in June 2017, said that he had told a member of the Brook House IMB about internet and computer speed and they said “it’s a bit hit and miss”, to which he responded, “It’s a joke. They can’t even access their emails, let alone anything to do with their case.”39 Mr Lake thought that the Brook House IMB did not take it seriously, because “nothing was ever done about it”.40
  6. Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), a charity that provides advice and assistance to people in immigration detention, surveyed detained people at Brook House every six months from 2016 and found that, in the majority of its surveys, more than half of respondents who tried to use the internet to research their legal cases complained of blocked websites. The blocked websites included BID’s own website, which offers free representation for immigration bail applications, and other websites offering advice on immigration matters, including those of solicitors’ firms.41 Mr Pierre Makhlouf, Legal Director of BID, noted that detained people’s personal email accounts were blocked, making it difficult for them to communicate with advisors.41 This is particularly concerning since, in some cases, it appears to have had the effect of reducing access to justice.
  7. Detained people also confirmed to the Inquiry that the computers themselves were often broken. D393 told the Inquiry that the computers “never worked”, and very often this meant that he was unable to communicate with his solicitors.42 D1851 told the Inquiry that there were “always issues with the internet and with fax” that meant he needed to see an immigration officer in person to hand over documents that his caseworker had asked him to provide.43 However, his requests to see an immigration officer were not followed up.44 Mr Lake handed in a petition to senior managers from 30 detained people complaining about poor computer facilities, but he suggested that the senior managers threw it away before the complaint could be considered by the Home Office.45
  8. It is unsatisfactory that, despite issues concerning blocked websites and access to working computers being complained about by detained people and advocacy groups during the relevant period, these issues were not resolved by G4S. This is particularly concerning as this failure to provide an adequate facility meant that it was difficult for some detained people to participate fully in their immigration cases.
  9. Detained people (as well as some others working or visiting IRCs) are not permitted to have internet-enabled devices such as smartphones.46 They must therefore be able to easily access computers and the internet in order to, among other things, obtain legal advice and representation. I am therefore recommending that reasonable access to computers and the internet be provided, reflecting the requirements of the Internet DSO.
Recommendation 4: Ensuring computer and internet access

The Home Office and its contractors must ensure reasonable access to computers and the internet.
Contractors must comply in full with Detention Services Order 04/2016: Detainee Access to the Internet, in particular:
●  Computers and the internet provided for detained people’s use must be maintained and fixed, if broken, within a reasonable time period, in order to allow detained people to access the internet for a minimum of seven hours per day, seven days per week.
●  Websites containing personal internet-based email accounts must not be blocked, since this is not a prohibited category of website.
●  Websites facilitating the provision of legal advice and representation must not be blocked, as this is not a prohibited category of website.


  1. Rule 17 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001 specifies that the development of skills and of services to Brook House and the community should be encouraged; detained people should be able to take part in paid activities; and educational activities and classes, physical education or recreation, and a library should be provided[]
  2. CJS000680_005-006[]
  3. CJS000680_005-006 []
  4. CJS0074048_022 para 86[]
  5. IMB000121_006 para 3.7[]
  6. Report on an Unannounced Inspection of Brook House Immigration Removal Centre 30 May–16 June2022 (HMIP000702), HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, September 2022, para 4.1[]
  7. Report on an Unannounced Inspection of Brook House Immigration Removal Centre 30 May–16 June 2022 (HMIP000702), HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, September 2022, para 4.1 []
  8. SER000455_029 para 83[]
  9. CJS0074048_0022 para 84[]
  10. VER000239_016 para 172[]
  11. MAR000002_007 para 58[]
  12. BDP000003_011-012 para 34[]
  13. BDP000003_011 para 34[]
  14. INN000012_020-021 paras 82, 86 and 87[]
  15. CJS0073709_015 para 1.50[]
  16. CJS0073709_016 para 1.56[]
  17. KEN000001_027 para 152[]
  18. IMB000121_006 para 3.7; CJS0073709_015 para 1.50[]
  19. SER000451_012 para 47[]
  20. SER000436_011 para 52[]
  21. Detention Centre Rules, Rule 17(1) []
  22. Detention Centre Rules, Rule 31 and Rule 32[]
  23. Detention Services Order 04/2016: Detainee Access to the Internet (HOM002593), Home Office, May 2016 (updated January 2020), para 2[]
  24. Detention Services Order 04/2016: Detainee Access to the Internet (HOM002593), Home Office, May 2016 (updated January 2020), para 4[]
  25. See, for example, DPG000021_031 para 93[]
  26. CJS000680_007[]
  27. TRN0000083_031-034. Mr Lake told the Inquiry that, on one occasion, detained people smashed the computers up so that they would get sent away, but that the result was simply that there were fewer computers available for detained people (Daniel Lake 1 March 2022 23/5-012) []
  28. CJS001591_001-002; CJS001591_009[]
  29. CJS001591_003-004[]
  30. CJS000913_001[]
  31. See, for example, DL0000228_078 para 250; DL0000143_027-028 paras 100-104[]
  32. Owen Syred 7 December 2021 127/13[]
  33. Philip Riley 4 April 2022 86/18[]
  34. HOM015395_001[]
  35. Detention Services Order 04/2016: Detainee Access to the Internet (HOM002593), Home Office, May 2016 (updated January 2020), para 5[][]
  36. BDP000002_010 para 32[]
  37. Detention Services Order 04/2016: Detainee Access to the Internet (HOM002593), Home Office, May 2016 (updated January 2020), para 11[]
  38. DPG000021_031 para 93[]
  39. TRN0000083_031-032[]
  40. Daniel Lake 1 March 2022 23/2-4[]
  41. DPG000038_019 para 54[][]
  42. DPG000023_010 para 38[]
  43. DL0000143_007-008 para 31[]
  44. DL0000143_007-008 para 31 []
  45. Daniel Lake 1 March 2022 23/13-24/22; TRN0000083_032[]
  46. Detention Services Order 05/2018: Mobile Phones, Internet Enabled Devices, and Cameras, Home Office, December 2018[]