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D.7 Use of force


  1. The term ‘use of force’ has a particular meaning in the context of immigration detention.1 Force is only allowed to be used by officers on detained people in particular circumstances, and as a last resort. The legal and policy framework surrounding the use of force is technical, but this should not detract from the human impact it has on those who are subject to it, even when used legitimately. Where force is used unnecessarily, inappropriately or excessively it clearly has the potential to cause serious harm and has, therefore, been a critical focus of this Inquiry.
  2. The Inquiry heard evidence that an unauthorised and potentially highly dangerous technique was used on several occasions during the relevant period from 1 April 2017 to 31 August 2017. In addition, there was considerable evidence that, during many incidents, officers were too quick to employ force. Attempts to de-escalate incidents were often non-existent. This included the unnecessary use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Furthermore, on occasions, detained people were faced with officers wearing balaclavas. These are not approved PPE for local interventions.2 There was no apparent justification or consideration of the impact of wearing inappropriate PPE on detained people. Most concerningly, force was routinely used on mentally unwell and vulnerable detained people.
  3. The serious problems with the way force was used at Brook House were neither identified nor rectified, because the system of reviewing and monitoring use of force incidents was completely ineffectual. There is no specific detention services order (DSO) that governs use of force in immigration removal centres (IRCs). Use of force in IRCs is governed in part by a prison service order (PSO), Prison Service Order 1600: Use of Force (the Use of Force PSO).3 The Use of Force PSO was developed for use in the prison estate and does not appear to have been drafted for the purpose of governing use of force in the immigration detention estate.4 This, in my view, is inappropriate. IRCs are not prisons and there are fundamental differences between the two environments and the needs of the people held within them.
  4. This chapter will address:
  • how, when and why force should be used (the legal and policy framework);
  • how, when and why force was in fact used at Brook House (the evidence considered by the Inquiry); and
  • concerning themes arising from the evidence.


  1. Detention Centre Rules 2001, Rule 41[]
  2. Jonathan Collier 30 March 2022 79/21-80/18; INQ000111_40 para 153[]
  3. Prison Service Order 1600: Use of Force (INQ000185), HM Prison Service, August 2005[]
  4. INQ000250 paras 6-7[]