Administrative Court dismisses challenge to the regime and conditions at Brook House IRC

Prison 4712885 1920

On 21 August 2020, Mr Justice Cavanagh handed down judgment in R (Soltany & Others) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWHC 2291 (Admin), a challenge brought by three asylum seekers who were detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre in 2017 and 2018 (which, at the time, was run by G4S). The focus of the claimants’ challenge was the practice at the IRC of confining detainees in their rooms overnight between the hours of 9pm to 8am, and for two half hour periods during the day. The rooms to which they were confined were shared (typically by two men, and for a period three men), and had the feature of a partially enclosed in-room toilet which the claimants alleged was inadequately screened and typically unclean, the effects of which were exacerbated by poor ventilation. Amongst other things, the claimants alleged that the ‘lock-down’ regime, particularly in these conditions: (i) did not meet, or further the object or purpose of, the statutory scheme, and in particular the requirements, under rules 3 and 39 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001, to provide for the secure but humane accommodation for detained persons in a relaxed regime with as much freedom of movement and association as possible, and with no more restriction than is required for safe custody and well-ordered community life; (ii) amounted to a breach of Articles 5 and 8 of the ECHR; and (iii) had an impact on the religious observance of Muslim detainees who were required to perform some of their daily prayers in their rooms, and that the condition of the rooms, and especially the proximity of the toilet, amounted to an unlawful, discriminatory, and/or a disproportionate interference with Muslim detainees' rights under Article 9 of ECHR, either read alone or with Article 14 of the ECHR, and to a breach of section 19 of the Equality Act 2010. In addition, the claimants renewed their application for permission to argue that the Secretary of State had acted contrary to in breach of common law principles and Article 5 of the ECHR, by failing to publish criteria for allocation to removal centres, by failing to give reasons for allocation to a particular centre, or to grant detainees an opportunity to make representations about which detention centre they should be allocated to. Mr Justice Cavanagh dismissed the claimants’ claim on all grounds, and refused permission on the renewed ground. Hafsah Masood acted for the Secretary of State.

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