Liberty is a core right. An individual should not be deprived of their liberty without good reason and adequate safeguards. In our work on cases of wrongful detention of members of the Windrush generation, we took the example of two individuals, Mr Anthony Bryan and Ms Paulette Wilson, to seek to understand why they had been wrongfully detained. The experience of detention is traumatising and debilitating, as shown by the evidence we heard from these two members of the Windrush generation, who were detained wrongfully, despite the fact that they had leave to remain in the UK, under the Immigration Act 1971.
We are very grateful to Mr Anthony Bryan and Ms Paulette Wilson, and Ms Janet Mackay and Ms Natalie Barnes, who accompanied them, for being prepared to revisit their experience, which was of enormous help to us in our work.
Our analysis of their case files confirmed that Home Office officials discounted ample information and evidence—the individuals’ accounts of their lives; evidence and pieces of information on the case files; representations from family members, lawyers and people who had known them for decades; letters and representations from MPs—all of which were consistent and clear representations on behalf of these individuals meeting their accounts of their lives which should have sufficed to ensure that such individuals were not deprived of their liberty. However, somehow it did not trigger the appropriate response and these people were not listened to and were wrongfully detained.
The evidence session suggested that in these cases, none of the safeguards to prevent against wrongful detention worked. These people were consequently detained unlawfully and inappropriately. We examined the case files of two people who were wrongfully detained and it was clear that the case files shared the same characteristics:
In relation to the wrongful detentions of Mr Bryan and Ms Wilson, the Home Office told us that they were a result of “a series of mistakes over a period of time.” We did not find that explanation credible or sufficient. We take the view that there was in all likelihood a systemic failure.
The Home Office does not appear to have acted like an organisation that had discovered it had made serious mistakes. When an organisation comes across a serious mistake, they take steps to address it—by identifying the staff involved, arranging extra training, extra supervision, or even disciplinary action. Yet the Home Office has not reported taking any action in respect of any of the individuals who played a part in wrongly depriving these two people of their liberty. Other than one senior civil servant being moved out of the Home Office to the Cabinet Office, there have been no reports of staffing changes or disciplinary action against staff at the Home Office..
In our view this suggests that in these cases the Home Office has an inadequate regard for the human rights of those who might wrongly be subject to their immigration procedures and that there is neither sufficient internal or external challenge to prevent the system depriving individuals of the fundamental right not to be detained.
It is unusual for a Committee to make criticisms in the terms that we have before our inquiry is concluded. However, we regard this as being a quite exceptional situation and it is important that as the criticisms we have made are fully justified by the information already available to us, our views should be made known and not be delayed by the desirability of there being further inquiries.
It is welcome that the new Home Secretary, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, shares our concern for the protection of human rights and in swiftly sharing these two case files has displayed a welcome transparency. We welcome his acknowledgement that “something went massively wrong” and note his commitment to find out “why did it happen and what lessons can we learn from it? […] We are all sorry for it, but how can we make sure that nothing like this happens to others?”
We appreciate the Home Secretary’s determination to ensure fundamental change takes place with regard to his officials’ handling of such matters, and his comment that our Committee’s work can help his Department to respect human rights. In order to understand further how the system came to deprive individuals of the fundamental right not to be detained without justification and adequate safeguards, we have asked the Home Office for further information including:
1 [Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP]
2 The Times, , 24 May 2018
3 [Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP]
4 Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Select Committee evidence session on 15 May 2018, HC (2017–19) 990, [RT Hon Sajid Javid MP]
5 [Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP]
Published: 29 June 2018