Last night (4 September), BBC Panorama broadcast disturbing footage of adults being subjected to physical, emotional and psychological abuse in Brook House immigration removal centre at Gatwick Airport, London.
Nine G4S officers have been suspended.
G4S continues to run the centre.
The abuse scandal follows a similar exposé of serious mistreatment in a child prison, Medway secure training centre, run by G4S between April 1998 and July 2016. That programme was broadcast in January 2016 and led to the suspension of 11 officers and a major police investigation, called Operation Woodley.
Although G4S was deemed unfit to continue looking after children in Medway secure training centre – it was taken over by the prison service in July last year – the UK Government continues to pay the company to look after detained vulnerable children in two child prisons (Oakhill secure training centre and Parc juvenile young offender institution) and in Gatwick pre-departure accommodation (part of Tinsley House immigration removal centre). Children are occasionally also held in Brook House immigration removal centre.
In May this year, Article 39 submitted a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice to probe when G4S stopped being paid to run Medway secure training centre, and to ask for a copy of G4S’s improvement plan for the child prison prior to the prison service taking over its management.
Yesterday we heard the Information Commissioner’s Office had asked the Ministry of Justice to respond to us on 11 August.
We have still not received a response.
This is what we asked:
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has issued its concluding observations following its first review of the UK.
The 17-page report documents major breaches in the UK’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which we ratified in June 2009. The international treaty sets out the rights of disabled children and adults, which are complementary and additional to other treaties such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Several major areas of concern relate to the rights of disabled children and young people living in institutional settings, with the UN Committee urging:
- Support to parents so that disabled children can enjoy their right to family life, and to reduce the numbers of children living away from home. Connected to this, the UK is urged to tackle the disproportionate levels of poverty among families with disabled children
- A comprehensive strategy on inclusive education, in line with the human rights model of disability
- Action to combat prejudice and discrimination disabled children endure through bullying and hate crime
- The end of restraint related to disability and segregation and isolation in all settings
- Action to prevent the use of restraint on disabled children and young people
- Financial support to organisations run by and for disabled children to, among other things, enable them to actively monitor the implementation of the human rights treaty.
Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:
“The UN body on disability rights has issued a devastating critique of the myriad of ways in which disabled children and young people are held back, excluded and punished. We know, for example, that children who have learning disabilities and difficulties disproportionately end up in prison where physical restraint and segregation are typically the automatic response for dealing with their profound distress and anxiety. With the UK due to submit a report within 12 months on the steps it has taken to implement the UN body’s recommendations, the Government must act quickly to remedy these grave human rights violations.”
Download the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ concluding observations here.