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Inspection and monitoring

  1. It is critical that the Home Office and its contractors understand that external inspection and oversight are only intended to supplement, not replace, their own internal processes. The Home Office and its contractors retain the primary responsibility for the welfare of detained people and for compliance with rules and procedures, with scrutiny provided by periodic inspections from HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), and by the relevant Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), a volunteer body attached to each immigration removal centre (IRC), which reports on conditions.
  2. While members of the Brook House IMB frequently raised concerns about individuals, and about conditions at Brook House more generally, there were several factors that limited the IMB’s ability to identify the risk or fact of poor treatment. Many detained people did not know about the IMB and did not understand its role or how to complain; some did not see it as an independent body. It was not sufficiently challenging of G4S or the Home Office. IMB members were and continue to be volunteers, lacking expertise in or knowledge of some areas they are expected to monitor. There is not a national statutory basis for IMBs nor the power to enforce change, and the Inquiry was told that the Detention Centre Rules 2001 “are out of date and do not properly reflect current best practice”.1 Independent, robust and properly governed IMBs are an important safeguard in immigration detention settings. I am therefore recommending that their concerns be publicly addressed and that consideration be given to their legal status.
Recommendation 32: Enhancing the role of the Independent Monitoring Boards

The government must:

●  respond to and publish responses to all concerns raised by any Independent Monitoring Board regarding immigration removal centres;
●  take steps without further delay to amend the Detention Centre Rules 2001, in so far as they govern Independent Monitoring Boards, in order to accurately reflect their current role; and
●  consider whether to put the National Chair and Management Board of the Independent Monitoring Boards on a statutory footing.
  1. IMBs provide regular and independent oversight with a focus on the welfare of detained people, and have important powers in IRCs. Members are permitted to access any area of the IRC at any time, to speak privately with any detained person, and to access any records held by the IRC (save for certain confidential or classified information). They must satisfy themselves of the state of the premises and the treatment of detained people, and are required to inform the Secretary of State of certain welfare concerns. They must also report annually to the Secretary of State. Their access to IRCs is limited by the number of visits they are afforded. They do not have specific training in issues such as the lawful use of force, nor do they have access to the contract for managing Brook House – much less a formal contract- monitoring role. While they can raise concerns, they have no power to issue sanctions or otherwise enforce compliance. This was demonstrated by the IMB requesting, but not receiving, from the Home Office detailed data on the number of Rule 35 reports. IMB members must be made aware of their specific legal powers under the Detention Centre Rules 2001, including to access records, and must be empowered to exercise these powers where appropriate.
  2. The statutory purpose of inspections of IRCs by HMIP is to report on the treatment of detained people and conditions in detention centres. Its 2016 inspection assessed Brook House as being ‘reasonably good’ against the four ‘healthy establishment’ tests. The 2016 HMIP inspection report was overly positive in places, including in relation to the governance of use of force. It is likely that HMIP did not identify this issue and inadequately scrutinised the governance of use of force; there was no reference to weekly or monthly committee or scrutiny meetings in its report, and the Inquiry did not see any positive evidence to suggest that they were occurring at the time of the inspection. While there were some areas in which HMIP’s criticisms provide useful context for the state of Brook House during the relevant period, the 2016 HMIP inspection report did not adequately reflect some of the adverse evidence about Brook House that was obtained by inspectors. Its methodology at the time was not sufficiently sensitive to the needs of an IRC, where signs of abuse may be more difficult to identify because of factors such as language barriers, a high turnover of detained people, and detained people’s reluctance to speak out for fear of negatively impacting their immigration cases.
  3. IMBs and HMIP can only ever supplement – but not replace – the internal processes of the Home Office and its contractors to satisfy themselves about the treatment of detained people. While neither body identified the ill treatment of detained people during the relevant period, changes have been introduced, including HMIP’s ‘enhanced methodology’, which incorporates offering every detained person a confidential interview, as well as a confidential staff survey. Given that indicators of abuse can be insidious, oversight bodies must be alert to the signs of ill treatment and have effective methodologies for identifying abuse. I am therefore recommending that HMIP and IMBs ensure that their approaches are sufficiently robust and take account of the specific needs of the detained population.
Recommendation 33: Improving the investigation and reporting of HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Independent Monitoring Boards

HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Independent Monitoring Boards working within immigration removal centres must ensure that they have robust processes for:

●  obtaining and reporting on an enhanced range of evidence and intelligence from detained people and those who represent or support them, staff and contractors, including that which is received outside of inspections or visits; and
●  reporting on any concerns about the Home Office and contractors.

Concluding remarks

  1. It is not the role of this Inquiry to consider recent developments in immigration detention policy or proposed legislative changes. Its work has focused on a number of “appalling” events that took place some time ago. However, many of the safeguards designed to protect vulnerable detained people failed at Brook House during the relevant period and I remain concerned about how those safeguards are operating currently. In my view, the prompt and full implementation of these 33 recommendations is necessary to “prevent a recurrence of any identified mistreatment”, such as that reflected in this Report. Many of the issues identified relate to a failure to follow the safeguards already established in rules and procedures. Too often it was the application, knowledge or understanding that was deficient and the embedding of this, including through the adequate training of staff, will therefore be critical to avoid recurrences of incidents of the kind seen at Brook House.
  2. The government and organisations identified in the recommendations that I am making must publish details of the steps they will take in response to each recommendation, including the timetable involved, within six months of the publication of this Report.
  3. A copy of this Report will be sent to the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights so that, in due course, implementation of or compliance with the Inquiry’s recommendations will be regularly monitored and reported upon.


  1. IMB000030_001; IMB000199_006-007 para 17; IMB000199_015 para 44; IMB000199_001 para 2; IMB000199_020 para 62; IMB000221_0009 para 32; IMB000187[]