High Court rules government redefinition of torture in immigration detention policy is unlawful

A group of seven unlawfully detained torture victims, supported by SRT grantee Medical Justice, has successfully challenged the government’s redefinition of torture in immigration detention policy. A High Court ruling found that the Home Office’s narrowing of the definition of torture in its flagship policy lacked ‘a rational or evidence base’. The Home Office may now face dozens of unlawful detention claims.

The seven detainees included victims of sexual and physical abuse, trafficking, homophobic attacks, a child abused by loan sharks, and a young man kidnapped and abused by the Taliban. The Home Office narrowed the definition of torture used in the new ‘Adults at Risk’ policy, excluding the seven from being recognised as torture victims.

The judge stated that the definition of ‘torture’ intended for use in the policy would require medical practitioners to ‘reach conclusions on political issues which they cannot rationally be asked to reach’.

The Home Office admitted it unlawfully detained the seven claimants and applied the policy wrongly in 57% of 340 cases in its initial 10 weeks of implementation, describing this as a ‘bedding in’ issue.

One of the claimants, Mr PO, who was unlawfully detained and suffered mental health deterioration while in detention, said, ‘[…] I hope that the decision will benefit other survivors of torture held in immigration detention and it will prevent the Home Office from implementing a policy that will hurt vulnerable individuals in the future.’

A Medical Justice spokesperson said, ‘[…] For those detainees excluded by the narrower definition of torture, the policy required specific evidence that detention is likely to cause them harm. Not only does the policy lack effective mechanisms for obtaining such evidence, it also encourages a ‘wait and see’ approach where vulnerable people are detained and allowed to deteriorate until avoidable harm has occurred and can be documented.’

Full story from Medical Justice’s website: http://www.medicaljustice.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Press-_Release_AAR_Judgement_10_10_2017-.pdf

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