Access to justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/15193/all cached version 16/10/2018 15:10:09 en Police watchdog omits 3 contentious deaths from record-breaking count of deaths in custody https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/iopc-omits-custody-deaths <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Exclusive: Annual count of police custody deaths in England and Wales hits 23, an 11-year high. But deaths of&nbsp;Rashan Charles,&nbsp;Shane Bryant and Edson Da Costa are excluded from the headline figure.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A.BX47braced_IDno-frame.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Police officer BX47 restrains Rashan Charles on Saturday 22 July 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A.BX47braced_IDno-frame.jpg" alt="" title="Police officer BX47 restrains Rashan Charles on Saturday 22 July 2017" width="460" height="430" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police officer BX47 restrains Rashan Charles on Saturday 22 July 2017</span></span></span></p><p>Three young black men who died during or after police restraint are not included in the latest official count of “deaths in or following police custody”,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>&nbsp;has learned.&nbsp;</p><p>The three are&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook-rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/rashan-charles-explainer">Rashan Charles</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-40671069">Shane Bryant</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/10/da-costa-death-met-officers-misconduct-ipcc">Edson Da Costa</a>.</p><p>A&nbsp;<a href="https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/news/iopc-publishes-figures-deaths-during-or-following-police-contact-201718">report published today</a>&nbsp;by the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/news/iopc-publishes-figures-deaths-during-or-following-police-contact-201718">Independent Office for Police Conduct</a>&nbsp;<span>(formerly known as&nbsp;the Independent Police Complaints Commission)</span>&nbsp;records 23 police custody deaths in England and Wales in the year to 31 March 2018.&nbsp;<span>That’s an 11-year high.&nbsp;</span></p><p>But at least three young black men who are known to have died during or after police restraint are not listed by the IOPC among the headline 23 “deaths in or following police custody”.&nbsp;</p><p>Edson Da Costa, 25, died in Newham, East London, on 21 June 2017, following restraint by police six days earlier.&nbsp;</p><p>Shane Bryant, 29, died in Leicestershire on 15 July 2017&nbsp;following restraint by members of public and police two days earlier.</p><p>Rashan Charles, 20, died in Hackney, East London on 22 July 2017 during or following restraint by police.</p><p>But none of the three are among the 23 recorded&nbsp;“deaths in or following police custody”, the IOPC confirmed today.</p><p>Responding to questions from Shine A Light, an IOPC spokesman explained: “Because Rashan Charles was never actually arrested and read his rights, he will not be one of the 23. It’s because of the way we define ‘in custody’.”&nbsp;</p><p>Asked to specify why Shane Bryant and Edson Da Costa were not included in the headline figure, the IOPC&nbsp;said that their deaths&nbsp;also did not meet the IOPC’s definition.</p><p>Instead, the deaths of Rashan Charles, Shane Bryant and Edson Da Costa are listed among the 170 “other deaths. . .&nbsp;following contact with the police in a wide range of circumstances”. That category of deaths rose from 132 in the previous year, a 29 per cent rise. The IOPC said that the&nbsp;steep rise reflected its increased capacity to carry out investigations.</p><h2>Eight black people among 17&nbsp;<span>restraint-related deaths</span></h2><p>Taking into account both categories — “deaths in or following police custody”&nbsp;<em>and&nbsp;</em>“other deaths. .&nbsp;&nbsp;. following contact with the police” — the IOPC said that&nbsp;17 of the people who died “were restrained or had force used against them by the police or others before their deaths”.&nbsp;</p><p>Of the 17 people who suffered restraint-related deaths, “nine were White and eight were Black”, the IOPC said.</p><p>The charity&nbsp;<a href="https://www.inquest.org.uk/">INQUEST</a>, which provides&nbsp;expertise on state-related deaths and their investigation, is aware&nbsp;of six restraint-related deaths of black men during the IOPC’s reporting period.</p><p>As well as&nbsp;Rashan Charles, Shane Bryant and Edson Da Costa, INQUEST’s records include:</p><p>Darren Cumberbatch, 32, who died in Nuneaton, Warwickshire on 19 July 2017, following restraint by police;&nbsp;<span>Nuno Cardoso, 25, who died in Oxford on 24 November 2017 following restraint by police,&nbsp;</span><span>and Kevin Clarke, 35, who died in Lewisham, South London on 9 March 2018&nbsp;following restraint by police.</span></p><p>The IOPC confirmed that&nbsp;Darren Cumberbatch, Nuno Cardoso and&nbsp;Kevin Clarke,&nbsp;<em>are&nbsp;</em>included among the headline 23 police custody deaths, but was unable to say whether they were listed among the restraint-related deaths.&nbsp;</p><p>INQUEST’s casework and monitoring suggests that there have been a&nbsp;further nine deaths in police custody in the four months since the end of the IOPC’s reporting period.</p><h2>Lack of accountability and impunity</h2><p>In October 2017&nbsp;the landmark&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/deaths-and-serious-incidents-in-police-custody"><em>Independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody</em></a>&nbsp;by Dame Elish Angiolini QC&nbsp;noted that,&nbsp;despite unlawful killing verdicts at coroner’s inquests, there has never been a successful manslaughter prosecution of a police officer for a death in police custody.&nbsp;</p><p>Earlier this year a panel of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22997&amp;LangID=E">UN human rights experts</a>&nbsp;said: “This points to the lack of accountability and the impunity with which law enforcement and State agencies operate.”</p><p>They expressed “serious concerns over the deaths of a disproportionate number of people of African descent and of ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom as a result of excessive force by State security”.</p><p>They added: “People of African descent with psychosocial disabilities and those experiencing severe mental or emotional distress reportedly face multiple forms of discrimination and are particularly affected by excessive use of force.”</p><p>Responding to today’s report, Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST, said:&nbsp;“These figures, the highest for over a decade, are an indictment of the failing systems of investigation, learning and accountability which follow police related deaths.” &nbsp;</p><p><span>The IOPC reported that twelve of the 23</span>&nbsp;headline deaths in custody involved people who&nbsp;<span>had “mental health concerns”. Coles said:&nbsp;</span>“Too many highly vulnerable people with mental ill health and addictions are ending up in the criminal justice system. The solution does not lie within policing. Many of these preventable deaths illustrate the impact of austerity and the historic underfunding of health and community services.”</p><p>Coles added: “The disproportionality in the use of force against black people adds to the irrefutable evidence of structural racism embedded in policing practices.&nbsp;Following the Angiolini review, this has been a year of widespread promises of change and learning lessons. Clearly real systemic change remains to be seen.”</p><p>Rashan Charles<span>’s great uncle,</span>&nbsp;Rod Charles, who had 30 years experience in the Metropolitan Police before retiring at the rank of Chief Inspector four years ago, also commented on today<span>’s</span>&nbsp;IOPC report. </p><p>He told Shine A Light:&nbsp;“The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and its predecessor the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) did not effectively probe police conduct in numerous dubious deaths occurring over several decades, this was their primary failure. Secondary, is the abject lack of empathy and support to bereaved family and friends.&nbsp;First impressions of the recently rebranded ‘Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)’ is a continuation of the same flawed processes.&nbsp;However, they should be given time to prove if they can actually function as an effective independent investigative body.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/RASHAN_RED_HOOD_FAM_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/RASHAN_RED_HOOD_FAM_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="364" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rashan Charles (Family)</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook-rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/rashan-charles-explainer">‘Accidental death’ of a young black Londoner. Rashan Charles EXPLAINER</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/concerned-about-his-safety-Rashan-Charles-inquest">‘My concern was his safety’ Police officer on Rashan Charles restraint</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/rashan-charles-inquest-verdict-accidental-death">Inquest jury says death of Rashan Charles was an accident</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight ShineALight Access to justice Rashan Charles Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Wed, 25 Jul 2018 11:53:41 +0000 Clare Sambrook 119003 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Home Office fails Albanian child refugees https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/esme-madill/albanian-blood-feuds-shpresa-asylum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>One Saturday at a London drop-in for children fleeing crime gangs and blood feuds.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/dancing_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Young people at Shpresa Monday evening dance class, Forest Gate, London (Simon Parker)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/dancing_0.jpg" alt="" title="Young people at Shpresa Monday evening dance class, Forest Gate, London (Simon Parker)" width="460" height="255" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young people at Shpresa Monday evening dance class, Forest Gate, London (Simon Parker)</span></span></span></p><p>“The first night I arrived at the foster carer’s she told me to prepare my food and then go and eat in my room,” Loran says.</p><p>“I was stressed as I was not good at cooking and it is very strange in Albania to tell people to eat alone. She was watching me and she told me to clean up as I made the food and I could not find the cloth to clean. I chewed and chewed but the food would not go down. I did not eat that night.”&nbsp;</p><p>Loran is talking to staff and volunteers from a refugee charity in York. He’s helping to train people who work with “unaccompanied minors” —&nbsp;child refugees who’ve come to this country without any adult relatives to care for them.&nbsp;</p><p>I first met&nbsp;Loran&nbsp;one sunny Saturday at Shpresa Programme, a registered charity run by and for women from the Albanian community, initially founded to help refugees from the Balkan conflicts to help themselves. Shpresa volunteers set up a Saturday drop-in for unaccompanied children from Albania who were struggling to help themselves.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left">His hands were often sore from long days cultivating the harvest. And the beatings.</p><p>Loran had been referred by his social worker. I took his statement. Back in Albania a crime gang had forced him to tend cannabis plants on a huge farm. He slept in a shed with a corrugated iron roof. Dogs licked his hands. He says this was comforting. His hands were often sore from the long days cultivating the harvest. And from the beatings.&nbsp;</p><p>Loud noises, sudden movements frighten&nbsp;Loran. It’s hard for him to tell his story. He tries to talk about the beatings, hesitates. His eyes twitch. He speaks of his escape from the cannabis farm. Pauses. Twitches.&nbsp;</p><p>Sometimes, when a boy cries, I might put an arm around him, hold his hand. Physical contact makes&nbsp;Loran&nbsp;flinch. That first session,&nbsp;Loran&nbsp;tells me he doesn’t need our help, he’s fine.&nbsp;<em>He&nbsp;</em>wants to help&nbsp;<em>us</em>. He trains professionals and welcomes new youngsters referred to the service. He says he can look after himself.</p><p>Loran was unlucky with his foster carers. Others call Shpresa to ask how they can best support the children in their care. Children as young as 11, who have night terrors and panic attacks, children who disassociate as they talk about the violence they have witnessed and been subjected to.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>That Saturday, when&nbsp;Loran&nbsp;leaves, I walk out into the crowded, open plan office where boys and some girls may wait for hours to see volunteers who will try to find them a lawyer, refer them to the Red Cross for help in tracing family members, reassure them that they are not alone, try to guide them through the Kafkaesque UK asylum system.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BACK_HEAD_PARKER.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At a Shpresa gathering (Simon Parker)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BACK_HEAD_PARKER.jpeg" alt="" title="At a Shpresa gathering (Simon Parker)" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At a Shpresa gathering (Simon Parker)</span></span></span></p><p>Some of these children have no lawyer when they come to us. Some have fallen into the hands of caseworkers who do shoddy work. We’ve seen pro-forma statements sent to the Home Office bearing the wrong country of origin. It takes care, time and skill to take a statement from a child who may be frightened and distrustful.</p><p>“My solicitor was kind,” Ilir says. “She told me what I said would not get back to Albania and she took time but I had not met a solicitor before… I did not know what she was going to do. There was an interpreter there and I thought she might speak to people back in Albania. She was actually really kind too but I did not know that then. At the first meeting, I was not relaxed.”</p><p>Ilir is reed thin, with a cheeky, disarming smile. He has waited three hours to see us. I apologise. He shakes my hand warmly, tells me to stop apologising. He’s thankful, makes us smile, jokes even about his homelessness and how his few belongings are scattered with friends across London.&nbsp;</p><p>He charms all the staff and volunteers — you hear happy laughter as he moves from room to room. Like&nbsp;Loran, Ilir was forced to work for a drugs gang. He waited nearly two years for a Home Office decision, and then it was a No. Any day now, he might get forcibly removed to Albania.&nbsp;</p><p>He claims not to think about it, not to care.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Ilir was forced to work for a drugs gang. He waited nearly two years for a Home Office decision. It was a No.</p><p>Then he tells me about the phone call from his cousin back in Albania saying men came looking for him. They had AK47s. Since Ilir wasn’t there, they tied up his sister. To stop her screaming they put a cloth in her mouth. “I am not upset for me,” he says quietly, “It is for her. I should be able to protect her.”</p><p>We didn't see Fation that Saturday. Fation is great at mechanics, loves volunteering, refurbishing old bikes. A while ago I asked him what he’d do if could stay in the UK. “My dream is to get a job in a garage and volunteer at Shpresa Programme,” he said. Fation, deaf in one ear from his father’s beatings, feared his father would kill him if he was returned to Albania. But the Home Office denied him asylum and his appeal was dismissed. We think he’s in Albania now. We haven’t heard from him.</p><p>That sunny Saturday we saw 13 victims of trafficking, violence or blood feuds. At 6.30pm we divided up the tasks, discussed who was the most vulnerable, whose case to put first on Monday morning. One boy had talked of suicide. We were quiet as we packed up ready for home.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Local authorities have a duty to protect and support highly vulnerable children like Loran. The&nbsp;<a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/656429/UASC_Statutory_Guidance_2017.pdf">UK government acknowledges</a>&nbsp;that unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery, including trafficking, often have complex needs.&nbsp;</p><p>There’s a system for identifying and protecting victims of trafficking, known as the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/child-trafficking/research-resources/national-referral-mechanism-nrm/">National Referral Mechanism</a>. It’s supposed to quickly gather information from various agencies, identify trafficked children, keep them safe.</p><p>But the system isn’t working for Albanian children.</p><p>In 2016, of 229 unaccompanied children from Albania who received an initial decision on their asylum claim, only two were granted refugee status, according to the Refugee Council report, <a href="https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0003/5923/Children_in_the_Asylum_System_Aug_2015__2_.pdf">Children in the Asylum System 2017</a>. The year before the figure was one.&nbsp;</p><p>One girl had been waiting more than 24 months for a Home Office decision. A lawyer told her: “You are from Albania, what do you expect? You’ll be waiting years.”</p><p>Even among professionals whose job it is to protect vulnerable children — lawyers, teachers and social workers —&nbsp;there’s a common assumption that Albania is a safe country, that these children are economic migrants.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>But this does not match the facts. Of the 3,805 potential victims of trafficking referrals to the National Referral Mechanism in 2016, 699, the largest number, came from Albania, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/national-referral-mechanism-statistics/2016-nrm-statistics/788-national-referral-mechanism-statistics-end-of-year-summary-2016/file">National Crime Agency</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/tightrope_PARKER.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Young people from Shpresa learning outdoor skills with Shawfire CIC in Croydon"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/tightrope_PARKER.jpg" alt="" title="Young people from Shpresa learning outdoor skills with Shawfire CIC in Croydon" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young people from Shpresa learn outdoor skills with Shawfire CIC in Croydon (Simon Parker)</span></span></span></p><p>Albanian children are fleeing trafficking, violence and blood feuds, a post-communist phenomenon that draws on medieval Kanun law, and demands revenge killings to salvage family honour. While the Home Office claims these feuds are&nbsp;<a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/565464/CIG-Albania-Blood-feuds-v2-July-2016.pdf">“few and in sharp decline”</a>&nbsp;the European parliament reports&nbsp;<a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX%3A52013IP0596&amp;from=IT">rising numbers</a>. Even the Albanian parliament admits that its efforts to prevent blood feuds have not succeeded.&nbsp;</p><p>The result is boys marked out to be killed when they reach 16.</p><p>The boy who talked of suicide that sunny Saturday had fled a blood feud. He saw his uncle shot in front of him. He wet the bed every night.&nbsp;</p><p>His appeal has been dismissed. The Home Office says the&nbsp;Albanian<em>&nbsp;</em>state will protect him. We could not find him a lawyer. We’ve tried calling his mobile. It just rings out.</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Young people from Shpresa will talk about their experiences of the UK government’s hostile environment at ‘Breaking the Chains’, an event hosted by the Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP Houses of Parliament on Friday, 1 June 2018 from 1-5pm. The Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit and Shpresa Programme will bring together Shpresa’s young people with legal professionals and others who support young Albanians, with expert speakers on blood feuds,&nbsp;representing trafficking victims, strategic litigation, child-centred case work, and country of origin research.To register please <a href="https://breaking-the-chains.eventbrite.co.uk">visit Eventbright</a>.</p><p><em>Young peoples names have been changed. Edited by Clare Sambrook for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-l">Child was held for a staggering 151 days in men’s immigration lockup Morton Hall in Lincolnshire</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jama">Do your parenting by Skype, UK tells fathers being deported to Jamaica</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/john-grayson-violet-dickenson/children-made-homeless-by-migration-rules">UK migration rules make children homeless</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight ShineALight Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Esme Madill Wed, 09 May 2018 07:00:31 +0000 Esme Madill 117748 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The ‘Windrush generation’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ are both our kin https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/luke-de-noronha/windrush-generation-and-illegal-immigrants-are-both-our-kin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As well as newfound sympathy for the Windrush generation, we should remember that ‘illegal immigrants’ are our kin, especially if we are to challenge the racism of the ‘hostile environment’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/windrush solidarity.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/windrush solidarity.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Windrush solidarity event in Brixton, April 2018. Yui Mok/PA Images. All rights reserved.</em></p><p>On Sunday Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned following the furore over the Windrush scandal: perhaps the first time a Home Secretary has faced sustained criticism for being&nbsp;<em>too tough</em>&nbsp;on the question of immigration. We should be cautious, however, in celebrating this apparent change in public mood. In fact, what we are witnessing is the&nbsp;<em>re-drawing</em>&nbsp;of the line separating those who belong from those who do not: ‘Windrush migrants’ are brought into the fold of the national ‘we’, while ‘illegal immigrants’ are constructed as manifest outsiders.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the last couple of weeks, we have been consistently reminded that the Windrush generation are not migrants, but arrived as citizens, as though this distinction must necessarily preface our compassion. We are then peddled the myth that Windrush migrants were invited to Britain, and welcomed with open arms, when in fact ‘coloured migration’ was always deemed undesirable, and racism has shaped immigration politics and nationality law since that historic docking at Tilbury.</p> <p>The fact that the Windrush generation were&nbsp;<em>turned into</em>&nbsp;‘illegal immigrants’ is precisely how immigration control works. There are no sharp divisions between ‘legal migrants’ and citizens over here, working hard, paying taxes and playing by the rules, and the ‘illegal immigrants’ over there, sneaking around, stealing jobs and deceiving ordinary Brits. In fact, the law changes around people;&nbsp;<em>illegality is produced</em>&nbsp;in ways which create divisions within our families, communities and classrooms. We can only develop a stronger critique of the UK’s cruel immigration system if we see Windrush migrants and ‘illegal immigrants’ as kin, rather than as good and bad migrants to be isolated from one another.</p> <p>In response to this, last week on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-43920554/question-time-should-there-be-amnesty-for-illegal-immigrants">Question Time</a>&nbsp;Diane Abbott stated that she would not support any amnesty for undocumented migrants who’ve been living in the UK for over ten years, and suggested that Labour would in fact ‘bear down on the numbers of illegal immigrants’, &nbsp;apparently because they lead ‘tragic lives’. But this sharp distinction between ‘Windrush migrants’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ does not hold in practice. To see this, we need to question how migration works over time.</p> <p>Between 1948 and 1962, around 10% of Jamaica’s population left the island for Great Britain (the percentage was higher in some of the smaller islands). This kind of mass migration cannot be turned off like a tap. People continue to live their lives across borders, transnationally, as family members make plans for their children, partners and cousins to join them. In short, the effects of migration are cumulative and networked, despite immigration restriction.</p> <p>Since 1971, the numbers of migrants moving from the Caribbean to the UK has decreased – North America became the prime destination – but people continued to move. In the last thirty years, some of these migrants overstayed visas. Most were able to regularise and now they are ‘legal migrants’ and British citizens. Some could not. These are the ‘illegal immigrants’, and they are often remarkably familiar, speaking with British accents and identifying with the same neighbourhoods as their British friends. Their children, partners, and parents are often British. But for different reasons, they remain ‘illegal’. I am suggesting that ‘Windrush migrants’ and ‘illegal migrants’ are often kin literally, part of the same extended families, as well as figuratively, in terms of their shared vulnerability to state violence and racism.</p> <p>The difference, however, is that ‘illegal immigrants’ end up on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-stop-the-charter-flight-pvt070-deporting-people-to-jamaica-in-may">mass deportation charter flights.</a></p> <p>This Thursday, up to 50 Jamaican nationals will be taken in the middle of the night from their detention cells, told to pack up what few possessions they have, and loaded onto coaches set for their plane ‘home’. Many will be&nbsp;<a href="http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/focus/20170716/luke-de-noronha-inhumane-deportation">shackled in body restraints</a>, their pleas for mercy ignored, their legal appeals cut short, their family lives destroyed.</p> <p>These are the ‘illegal immigrants’ who are unworthy of amnesty. These are the ‘bad migrants’, those who failed to play by the rules. They will be exiled home,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/18/act-jamaica-deported-british-england-home-office">banished to Jamaica</a>, and this is routine, ordinary under UK immigration policy.</p> <p>There is a cruel irony to the timing, but we would be wrong to identify a contradiction here. With immigration, there is nothing out of step about protecting some so that most can be excluded, detained and deported. This is immigration politics as usual.</p> <p>What the Windrush scandal has provided is the rare opportunity to publically reflect on the violence of our immigration system (see David Lammy’s brilliant piece&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/30/amber-rudd-departure-toxic-policy-windrush-generation-home-secretary-david-lammy">here</a>). It should remind us of the human cost of the anti-immigrant politics we have cultivated, from the first restrictions on commonwealth subjects in 1962, through Enoch Powell, Thatcher, Blair and now Theresa May. Instead, we see the re-drawing of the line between us and them, good migrants and bad migrants, the Windrush generation and the ‘illegal immigrants’.</p> <p>Of course, the treatment of Windrush migrants has been abhorrent, but those who have moved in more recent years also have compelling claims to move and to stay. Most migrants move to the UK because of deep historical and family connections, as they retrace, in reverse, the grooves of British imperialism. This is impossible to talk about when the consensus on ‘illegal immigration’ is so deafening.</p> <p>As we reflect on the Windrush scandal, we might find that the charter flight to Jamaica on Thursday captures more about the UK’s approach to immigration than the newfound sympathy for the Windrush generation, and we should remember that ‘illegal immigrants’ are our kin, and necessarily so if we are to challenge the racism at the heart of the ‘hostile environment’.</p><p><em>This article is cross-posted with kind permission from <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3771-the-windrush-generation-and-illegal-immigrants-are-both-our-kin">Verso Books</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/amber-rudd-resigns-anti-migrant-propaganda-machine-lives-on">Amber Rudd resigns, the anti-migrant machine works on </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jama">Do your parenting by Skype, UK tells fathers being deported to Jamaica</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/child-locked-up-by-mistake-for-62-days-at-adult-immigration-jail">Child locked up ‘by mistake’ for 62 days at adult immigration jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/dozens-of-fathers-among-migrants-to-be-forcibly-deported-tonight">Dozens of fathers among migrants to be forcibly deported tonight</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/rayah-feldman/pregnant-women-bear-brunt-of-government-s-clampdown-on-migrant-nhs-care">Pregnant women bear brunt of government’s clampdown on ‘migrant’ NHS care</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/erin-dexter/making-nhs-hostile-environment-for-migrants-demeans-our-country">Making the NHS a “hostile environment” for migrants demeans our country</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Luke de Noronha Tue, 01 May 2018 10:16:58 +0000 Luke de Noronha 117598 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'We’ve done you proud' — Families speak after NHS Trust fined £2million over patient deaths https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/sara-ryan/connor-sparrowhawk-southern-health-fined-2m <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG 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mso-bidi-font-family: &amp;amp;amp; color: #333333; background: white; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Today Southern Health was fined £2m over the “entirely preventable” deaths of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk and Teresa Colvin, aged&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">45</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SARA_RYAN_26MARCH2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SARA_RYAN_26MARCH2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sara Ryan speaking in Oxford on 26 March 2018, after Southern Health was fined £2million (image #JusticeforLB)</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Clare Sambrook writes:</strong> </h2><p>Today at Oxford Crown Court, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust was fined £2m for allowing the “entirely preventable” deaths of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk and Teresa Colvin, who was 45.&nbsp;<span>Passing sentence,&nbsp;</span><a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/r-v-southern-nhs-sentencing.pdf">Mr Justice Stuart-Smith </a>spoke of their families’&nbsp;“<span>deep, catastrophic and unspeakable pain, sadness and loss</span><span>”.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Teresa Colvin’s husband Roger,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-43542284">speaking outside court today</a>,&nbsp;said Teresa, who was affectionately known as TJ, had been “a vivacious, beautiful, and loving woman” who was dearly loved. In a statement he read to the court Roger Colvin spoke of life’s “what-ifs” and how every day something would trigger a memory, accentuating his terrible loss.&nbsp;TJ’s sister Wendy Andrade spoke of anger and hurt that was still very raw for the family and the massive void that&nbsp;TJ’s&nbsp;death had&nbsp;left.&nbsp;</p> <p>Teresa Colvin was found hanged by a phone cord at Woodhaven Adult Mental Health Hospital, Southampton on 22 April 2012.&nbsp;She died four days later.</p> <p>The court heard that Southern Health had failed to act upon warnings about ligature risks from health and safety expert Mike Holder. He&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3783528/Shamed-NHS-boss-Health-chief-told-FIVE-YEARS-ago-patients-risk-failed-follow-advice-240k-job.html">resigned in protest at the Trust’s inaction</a> eight weeks before Teresa Colvin’s death.</p> <p>Between 2007 and 2011 more than 1,700 “ligature incidents” had occurred across the Trust. The very phone cord that TJ would later use had been identified as a risk to patients. The cost of eliminating the risk would have been £53. Nothing was done about it.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Connor Sparrowhawk,&nbsp;<span>a funny, quirky and beloved young man,</span><span>&nbsp;was just 18 when he died on 4 July 2013 whilst a patient at Slade House, a Short Term Treatment and Assessment Centre at Headington in Oxford.</span></p><p><span>Connor had autism, learning difficulties and epilepsy, but it was the Trust’s neglect that caused his death.</span></p> <p>His mother, Sara Ryan, had warned staff —&nbsp;in writing — that Connor had an injury to his tongue that suggested a recent seizure. Yet he was allowed to bathe unsupervised and behind a locked door, and he drowned in the bath.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/r-v-southern-nhs-sentencing.pdf">Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said</a>&nbsp;each death was an “unnecessary human tragedy”, and it was a “regrettable fact” that Sara Ryan and Roger Colvin had had to campaign for justice.&nbsp;</p><p>Connor’s family and friends campaigned under the banner #JusticeforLB — his nickname was Laughing Boy because he laughed so much. Their work provoked the exposure of the Trust’s failure to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths.&nbsp;</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DZNZPVJX4AAVflC.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Connor Sparrowhawk (#JusticeforLB)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DZNZPVJX4AAVflC.jpg" alt="" title="Connor Sparrowhawk (#JusticeforLB)" width="240" height="353" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Connor Sparrowhawk (#JusticeforLB)</span></span></span></p><p><span>While failing to watch over Connor,&nbsp;Southern Health had spent months monitoring his mother’s blog. The morning after his death executives <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/on-connor-sparrowhawk-s-avoidable-death">turned their attention to reputation management</a>. Through years of lies and obfuscation Southern Health attacked bereaved families and&nbsp;</span><a href="https://mydaftlife.com/2015/04/02/farcical-inaccuracies-2/">persistently tried to shift blame</a><span>&nbsp;for Connor’s death from itself to Sara Ryan. One Trust employee left a message on her voicemail calling her “a vindictive cow”.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The judge&nbsp;paid tribute to Sara Ryan today: “It is clear on the evidence that Dr Ryan in particular faced not merely resistance but entirely unjustified criticism as she pursued her Justice for LB campaign.”</p> <p>He noted Southern Health’s admission:&nbsp;</p> <p>“The Trust fully acknowledges that Dr Sara Ryan has conducted herself and the Justice for LB campaign in a dignified, fair and reasonable way. To the extent that there have been comments to the contrary by Trust staff and family members of staff, these do not represent the view of the Trust and are expressly disavowed.”</p><p>The judge said that victim impact statements from Sara Ryan and from Connor’s step-father Richard Huggins “make for almost unbearable reading”. </p><p>He said: “Dr Ryan describes how the light went out of her life on 4 July 2013. And in dignified and restrained terms she lays bare how the assertion by the Trust in the early days that Connor had died of natural causes compounded her grief. As did Mr Colvin when referring to the loss of TJ, Dr Huggins refers to their grief being raw. Their lives have become dominated by a deep, catastrophic and unspeakable pain, sadness and loss.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over years we have published&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/sara-ryan/ministry-of-justice-says-you-don-t-need-lawyer-at-inquest-trust-state">work by Sara Ryan</a>, by&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/tom-ryan/since-my-brother-s-preventable-death">Connor’s brother Tom</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/on-connor-sparrowhawk-s-avoidable-death">disclosure stories</a>&nbsp;about Southern Health’s failure to take action to remedy known problems.</p> <p>Today we pay tribute to bereaved families who fight for truth and accountability, who work to make public services safer for everyone. We thank&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/@GeorgeJulian">George Julian</a>, whose reporting of inquests and tribunals through live-tweeting has shone a light on Connor’s and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.georgejulian.co.uk/2018/03/24/live-tweeting-inquests-and-tribunals-10-top-tips-of-learning-so-far-justiceforlb/">other state-related deaths</a>. </p><p>Mr Justice Stuart-Smith<span>’</span>s judgement can be found <a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/r-v-southern-nhs-sentencing.pdf">here</a>. Connor’s family’s statement in response to today’s sentencing follows below.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_2bigger5_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_2bigger5_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="65" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h2>Family statement on the Health &amp; Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution of Southern Health #JusticeforLB</h2><h2>Sara Ryan writes:</h2><p>Five years ago this month we took our beautiful boy to what we thought was a specialist NHS unit. He drowned in the bath 107 days later.</p><p>No one should die a preventable death in the care of the state. Learning disabled people should not die on average twenty years before their non-disabled peers. Families should not have to fight for answers and accountability. They should not have to raise funds for legal representation at a time of unspeakable grief and pain.</p><p>Southern Health dug deep into publicly funded pockets and armed itself with a range of legal weaponry and dirty tricks.</p><p>The #JusticeforLB campaign has shone a light on systemic failings in the care of learning disabled people. We have collectively and effectively revealed weaknesses in regulatory practices, a disregard for the lives and deaths of certain people and the limitations of work by large established charities in this area.</p><p>We appreciate Dr Nick Broughton’s recognition and acknowledgement of the failings that spread across five years under Katrina Percy’s leadership, and his heartfelt apology for these. [Broughton has been Southern Health chief executive since November 2017].</p><p>We thank the HSE for their meticulous and sensitive investigation and everyone who has stood alongside us fighting for what is right and just.</p><p>I’m left thinking if Connor was here now, in the shadow of Oxford Crown Court and the St Aldates police station, he would repeatedly ask ‘<em>why mum?</em>‘</p><p>I’d reply ‘<em>I don’t know matey but we’ve done you proud</em>’.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/connor_bus2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Bus, by Connor Sparrowhawk"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/connor_bus2_0.jpg" alt="" title="Bus, by Connor Sparrowhawk" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bus, by Connor Sparrowhawk (#JusticeforLB)</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/shinealight/sara-ryan-clare-sambrook/connor-sparrowhawk-justiceforLB">Connor Sparrowhawk: How one boy’s death in NHS care inspired a movement for justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/tom-ryan/since-my-brother-s-preventable-death">Since my brother’s preventable death . . .</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/190k-payoff-for-ex-chief-of-nhs-trust-that-failed-to-investig">£190K payoff for ex-chief of NHS Trust that failed to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/imogen-tyler/connor-sparrowhawk-erosion-of-accountability-in-nhs">Connor Sparrowhawk: the erosion of accountability in the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/on-connor-sparrowhawk-s-avoidable-death">On Connor Sparrowhawk’s avoidable death</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/sara-ryan/ministry-of-justice-says-you-don-t-need-lawyer-at-inquest-trust-state">Ministry of Justice says you don’t need a lawyer at an Inquest. Trust the State</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/ally-rogers/we-apologise-to-anybody-who-feels-let-down">‘We apologise to anybody who feels let down’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/uk-government-s-inversion-of-accountability">The UK government’s inversion of accountability</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight ShineALight ourNHS Access to justice Clare Sambrook Sara Ryan Mon, 26 Mar 2018 16:30:34 +0000 Sara Ryan and Clare Sambrook 116882 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Connor Sparrowhawk: How one boy’s death in NHS care inspired a movement for justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/shinealight/sara-ryan-clare-sambrook/connor-sparrowhawk-justiceforLB <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <ul><li>The story of a UK campaign for truth and accountability. And respect for the lives of people who have learning disabilities. Review by Clare Sambrook. Extract by Sara Ryan.</li></ul> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Ryan_Sara.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sara Ryan"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Ryan_Sara.jpg" alt="" title="Sara Ryan" width="460" height="376" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘What has Steve Wright got, Mum?’ he asked. ‘DJitis,’ I said. Sara Ryan (Rich Huggins)</span></span></span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><h2><a href="http://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html"><em>Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;A Death by Indifference</em>, by Sara Ryan</a></h2><h2>Review by Clare Sambrook</h2> <p>Sara Ryan began a blog six years ago, “mostly to document the funny stories that happened in our everyday lives.” Called <a href="https://mydaftlife.com">mydaftlife</a>, it’s a warm and funny read. Ryan has an ear for dialogue, a photographer’s eye —&nbsp;and she’s a nifty swearer. Star of the show is her son Connor, his quirky take on life. One of five children, they call him Laughing Boy, LB for short. He loves lorries, buses, coaches, London, Eddie Stobart, and the family’s Jack Russell, Chunky Stan. </p> <p>Connor is 15 when the blog starts. Here’s a conversation:</p> <ul><li>‘Hey LB! How did meal prep go today?’</li><li>‘Not good, Mum.’</li><li>‘Oh. Why not?’</li><li>‘I failed, Mum.’</li><li>‘Whaddayamean, you failed?’</li><li>‘I failed, Mum.’</li><li>‘Why? What did you cook?’</li><li>‘Kebabs, Mum.’</li><li>‘Oh. I don’t get it. What went wrong?’</li><li>‘I didn’t have a skewer, Mum.’</li><li>‘Oh. Why not?’</li><li>‘Dunno, Mum.’</li><li>‘So what did you eat for lunch?’</li><li>‘Bits, Mum.’</li></ul> <p>Connor has autism, learning difficulties, epilepsy. He’s nearing 18 and the prospect of leaving school, the people he knows and likes, when the story darkens. An early encounter with adult social care comes with a manager’s humourless remark: “I am his future.”</p> <p>At home and at school Connor becomes anxious, unhappy, unpredictable, unlike himself. Things come to a head when he punches Big Sue, his beloved support teacher. The family, at their wit’s end, learn that there’s an NHS unit close by that can help. It’s a Short Term Assessment and Treatment Unit (STATT, for short), a mile or two from their Oxford home. It’s called Slade House and run by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. There a team of learning disability specialists —&nbsp;psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, nurses —&nbsp;will keep Connor safe, take a few weeks to assess him, work out the cause of his distress.</p> <p>Connor is admitted one night in March 2013. The next morning, in the early hours, he is forcibly restrained by four staff, pinned face-down. Says Ryan: “That was the day he stopped being a sixth former.”</p> <p>Weeks pass. Connor loses weight. One morning, fifteen weeks and two days after his admission, Connor (he has epilepsy, remember) is left alone, behind a locked door, out of earshot, in a steep-sided bath. He has a seizure. And he drowns.</p> <p>His <a href="https://mydaftlife.com">mother’s blog</a>, and now her book, tells this story and its brutal aftermath, as Connor’s family tries to find out what exactly happened to him, how on earth it <em>can</em> have happened at all. </p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Ryan_Justice640.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Ryan_Justice640.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="363" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><a href="https://www.inquest.org.uk/family-campaigns">Other families</a> bereaved by state neglect and wrongdoing might find their own experience reflected here: the “indescribable terror”, the pain and struggle, being blocked and bewildered by official lying and contempt. The bullying and the bruising, the character attack, the surveillance, the accusation that <em>you&nbsp;</em>are the problem. </p><p>The waiting. </p><p>And the inequality of arms. About the early days, Ryan writes: “We had no idea how uneven the ‘playing field’ was in a game we didn’t yet understand we were playing.”</p> <p>Ryan’s craft —&nbsp;she is a Senior Research Lead at Oxford University —&nbsp;serves the fight.<strong> </strong>Her partner Richard Huggins is an academic too. Their #JusticeforLB campaign, supported by family, friends, and the charity INQUEST, forces the exposure of negligence and incompetence on a scale that is hard to comprehend. </p> <p>It turns out that seven years <em>before</em> Connor died, another patient <a href="https://mydaftlife.com/2016/03/27/one-way-wriggle-to-the-moon/">drowned in the same NHS unit</a>. <em>In the same bath.</em> A fact that Southern Health concealed for more than two years after Connor’s death. </p> <p>It turns out that Southern Health has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/dec/09/southern-health-nhs-trust-failed-investigate-patient-deaths-inquiry">failed properly to investigate</a> more than 1,000 unexpected deaths —&nbsp;in only four years —&nbsp;and that the deaths of people with learning disabilities are least likely to be investigated. Fewer than 1% of <em>their</em> unexpected deaths have been looked into. <em>One per cent</em>. As if their lives and deaths don’t matter.</p> <p>Without #JusticeforLB these things and more would likely have stayed hidden.</p> <p>Ryan points to the premature mortality rates of people with learning disabilities in the UK, the hate crime, the “lukewarm outrage” to documented experiences of abuse, the lethal undertow of eugenics.</p> <p>Connor’s life, a happy life, well-lived, shared, recorded, celebrated, proves the wrong and falsity in all of that. </p> <p>Ryan’s book speaks of a family’s dreadful loss, charts a creative, comradely and joyous campaign for truth, for justice and accountability, strikes a blow for human rights. And brings to life her funny, kind and much-loved son.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_2bigger5.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_2bigger5.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="65" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/3500.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Connor at his school prom"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/3500.jpg" alt="" title="Connor at his school prom" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Connor at his school prom (#JusticeforLB)</span></span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><h2><a href="http://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html"><em>Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;A Death by Indifference</em></a></h2><h2>Extract by Sara Ryan</h2><p>One thing that was never pinned down during the inquest was what actually happened on the morning Connor died. We found out from the documentation and witness statements that Connor woke up and was going to have a bath before going to visit the Oxford Bus Company. According to the documentation his support worker and key nurse checked on him every 15 minutes until 9.15am when he was found unconscious. Where the decision for 15-minute observations came from was never uncovered, as witness after witness was asked and said they didn’t know.</p> <p>They were both in the nurses’ office which was across the corridor from the bathroom, a short distance away. The support worker was doing an online Tesco order in between checking on Connor. The mundaneness of this detail fills me with queasiness. Still. Ticking the ‘3 for 2’ box while Connor drowned feet away. Their statements and witness testimony provided contradictory evidence about who did what and when. The support worker’s evidence revealed that the bathroom door was locked. She used a key to open it before she found him. Until then, we hadn’t been told that the bathroom door had been locked. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/connor_bus2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="‘Bus’ by Connor Sparrowhawk"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/connor_bus2.jpg" alt="" title="‘Bus’ by Connor Sparrowhawk" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘Bus’ by Connor Sparrowhawk</span></span></span></p><p>So, not only was Connor not supervised in the bath, but he was locked in the room. This was presented as allowing Connor the privacy to do ‘what boys do in the bathroom’. It was never made clear who locked the door. When it was raised a second time, one or two barristers leapt up to say that we did not know if the door was ‘locked’ – this in spite of the evidence given by the support worker that she had ‘used a key to open it’.</p> <p>Thinking back to Connor bathing at home in the downstairs bathroom with no door, and a constant in‑and‑out of talking to him, reminding him to wash his hair, chatting&nbsp;to him and answering his endless questions, I felt physically sick. In 18 years, we had never left him in the bath with the door shut, let alone locked. Big Sue and Tina said that, on residential school trips, they would always stand by the door of the shower and talk to the kids, even those without epilepsy. </p> <p>Sitting there in full view of the jury and listening to the evidence – ‘I checked…oh no, he checked’ sort of stuff – my brain was screaming: ‘What the actual fuck were you doing? Who checked? When? Did you ever fucking “check”? Or did you suddenly wonder where he was?’ The contradictory evidence over who checked and when was never fully addressed during the inquest.</p> <p>Staff evidence exhibited a mix of remorsefulness, defensiveness, reflectiveness and the downright offensive. The hardest to sit through was [consultant psychiatrist] Dr Murphy, which spread from the Friday afternoon in person to the following Monday by video link from Ireland.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Justicequilt-6_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Step-dad, Rich, brothers Owen &amp; Tom, Connor (far right) two weeks before his death (Ryan)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Justicequilt-6_0.jpg" alt="" title="Step-dad, Rich, brothers Owen &amp; Tom, Connor (far right) two weeks before his death (Ryan)" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Step-dad, Rich, brothers Owen & Tom, Connor (far right) two weeks before he died (Ryan)</span></span></span></p> <p>We knew from the Verita review [February 2014,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/EasySiteWeb/GatewayLink.aspx?alId=76277">PDF here</a>]&nbsp;that Dr Murphy had assessed that Connor had not had a seizure on 20 May. She took his subsequent statement that he remembered biting his tongue when angry as the accepted version of what happened without discussion with us. The fact that she interacted with Connor a handful of times across the 107 days was irrelevant.</p> <p>When asked about if Connor had had a seizure, would it be appropriate to leave him in the bath, she replied, ‘If it was a proven seizure, it wouldn’t have been appropriate.’ She went on to say, ‘My understanding is Connor didn’t have a seizure while he was on the ward’ – a point the Coroner dismissed, gently reminding her Connor had a seizure on the day he died.</p> <p>When questioned about the bleedingly obvious point that you don’t rule seizure activity out in a patient with epilepsy, she replied, ‘I made a judgement call on that day, with all the information I had and I’m always thinking bigger picture and I think that’s normal.’</p> <p>Paul Bowen QC, [the family’s barrister] making his polite, missile-like points, continued his questioning, drawing on the testimony of expert witness Professor Crawford, a consultant neurologist and Director of the Special Centre for Epilepsy, York.</p><p>‘Dr Ryan had seen her son have seizures in the past.’</p> <p>‘Yes.’</p> <p>‘And she had seen how he presented after a seizure. And she was the best person to know, having seen him that day whether it was likely or not that he had had a seizure, wasn’t she?’</p> <p>‘I suppose so.’</p> <p>‘And indeed, I could put it to you that Professor Crawford draws the conclusion that it probably was as a result of an unobserved seizure that he bit his tongue.’</p> <p>‘Well, with all due respect, Professor Crawford wasn’t there.’</p> <p>‘I could say the same, you weren’t actually there when he was supposed to have had the seizure.’</p> <p>No.</p> <p>The inquest was obviously a difficult process, and compounded by what seemed to be a continuing tendency to mother‑blame. The staff witness statements produced for Connor’s inquest offered further examples of this. This set of statements typically included a section headed ‘My Relationship with Dr Ryan’ or just ‘Dr Ryan’. Such a heading was unnecessary for many reasons, not least that Connor clearly had a large family who (apart from Tom, who at 13 years old was not allowed on the ward) visited him in the Unit and interacted with staff. It was also odd given I was called Sara in the Unit – there was no ‘Dr’ stuff in those days.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/connor_tom.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Connor and his brother Tom"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/connor_tom.jpg" alt="" title="Connor and his brother Tom" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At Marble Arch, waiting for the bus home after birthday day out, Connor & Tom (Sara Ryan)</span></span></span></p> <p>Charlotte [Haworth Hird, a leading human rights solicitor] sent us these witness statements in September 2015 with an email warning us of the content. It’s odd really, contrasting the actions that help or ease, with those that make a devastating situation worse. Reading the evidence in advance of Connor’s inquest was devastating. For example, a student nurse who until that point I thought I had got on well with stated:</p> <p>‘I had seen Dr Ryan shouting at a consultant and I did not want to experience that. I was scared of her; she was a bit different.’</p> <p>When something goes catastrophically wrong, pinning the blame on ‘Mum’ or the family rather than trying to establish openly and transparently what went wrong is one of those aspects of public sector provision that has consistently floored us over the past few years. Of course, mother-blame does, in effect, help to relieve a Trust or County Council from having to think about the pain and grief bereaved families experience.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Ch6x2nsWwAEZjdZ.jpg-large_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Craftivisim by George Julian"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Ch6x2nsWwAEZjdZ.jpg-large_0.jpeg" alt="" title="Craftivisim by George Julian" width="240" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Craftivisim by George Julian #JusticeforLB</span></span></span>It is also indicative of a wider shortcoming in many health and social care services – of failing to want to understand the experiences and views of families, and failing to factor this in when making decisions or statements.</p> <p>The County Council was also firing nuclear-type missiles our way. We received an independent report commissioned by the Director of Adult Social Care one morning, out of the blue. The report arrived in my inbox two weeks after it had been circulated to everyone and their dog. It was almost farcical, as so much of it was inaccurate. It was also deeply biased, slipping into a review about me and my actions rather than what happened and why.</p> <p>Days before Connor’s inquest began, Alicia Wood, then CEO of the Housing and Support Alliance (now known as Learning Disability England), had forwarded a copy of a letter to Caoilfhionn Gallagher, the human rights barrister who had earlier offered us pro bono support. The letter was from a less reflective Oxford County Council commissioner who had written to two disability activists excusing the Council’s role in commissioning such crap services. As I read it, I could see again subtexts of mother-blame.</p> <p>She described feeling ‘immense sympathy’ for me while stating, in the same sentence, that she believed my campaigning had done a lot of damage. ‘In hindsight’ featured, as it does so commonly when something goes catastrophically wrong. We-could-possibly-have-done-more-but-we-were-so-stretched-type bollocks. The letter ends with a toe-curling paragraph which combines ‘immensely sorry’ with the comment that bloggers have ‘a duty to be honest and accurate’:</p><p>‘My hope is that she can find some kind of peace with this, and that one day, she might be able to move on.’</p><p>Weary Mother, a regular contributor to my blog, captured what the experience is like for many mothers in the following comment on mydaftlife:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">So many of us have fought so bloody hard for justice for our sons and daughters and have all been treated as brutally as Sara and her family has…just for seeking justice. Many of us battle on, like Sara, now. </p><p class="blockquote-new">My son is an actor with a group composed of people with learning disabilities. With tears running down my face I watched him when they performed a play about the First World War. My son was the only soldier from that village to come home. In his tattered uniform he came slowly down the aisle in church, Last Post playing quietly. He leaned heavily on stick (as he now does from damage done to him in real life), his head bandaged and bloody. At front the widows wait with his wife, who moves towards him in beautiful and moving joy. </p><p class="blockquote-new">In the background, slowly and in time to the gently played Last Post, a row of our dead boys walk in line, eyes bandaged and unseeing, comrades all. Arm stretched out, hand on comrade’s shoulder. </p><p class="blockquote-new">I wept. So many, so many…so bloody many. Harm is done to our boys and our girls and like those widows, we are grateful if they just come home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>When cross-questioned at Connor’s inquest, the student nurse changed her position and said she was not scared of me. She said I was a mother trying to do her best for her son.</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html">Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – A Death by Indifference</a>,</em>&nbsp;by Sara Ryan with a foreword by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.<br /> <strong>To order a copy for £12.99 go to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html">Jessica Kingsley Publishers</a>.</strong></p><hr /><p><iframe width="460" height="258" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gMtOGXBEDuo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2><a style="font-size: 17px;" href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/justiceforlb?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Ehashtag">#JusticeforLB: Notes by Clare Sambrook</a></h2> <p>• Sara Ryan continues to blog at <a href="http://mydaftlife.wordpress.com/">mydaftlife</a>.</p> <p>• Connor’s family is supported by the charity&nbsp;<a href="http://www.inquest.org.uk/">INQUEST</a>, and represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Charlotte Hird Haworth of Bindmans solicitors.</p> <p>• Six weeks after Connor died, an unannounced inspection of Slade House by the Care Quality Commission found it to be inadequate in all 10 measures of assessment. That CQC report, published in November 2013, can be found in <a href="https://mydaftlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/cqc-slade-house-final-report-1.pdf">PDF here.</a>&nbsp;Sara Ryan notes: “The report reads like an inspection of a Victorian asylum.”</p> <p>• In February 2014 the Verita report, commissioned by Southern Health, confirmed&nbsp;that Connor’s death was preventable. <a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/EasySiteWeb/GatewayLink.aspx?alId=76277">PDF here.</a>&nbsp;</p> <p>•&nbsp;A police investigation into Connor’s death was closed in August 2014.</p> <p>•&nbsp;An inquest jury determined in October 2015 that Connor’s death was contributed to by neglect and very serious failings —&nbsp;failings in the assessment, care and risk management of epilepsy in patients with learning disability, errors and omission in Connor’s care at the unit, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust Short Term Assessment and Treatment Unit (STATT), Slade House. The <a href="justiceforlb.org:full-jury-findings-connor-sparrowhawk-justiceforlb">full jury findings are here.</a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DNpj-P4XUAUI5qo.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sara Ryan at the launch of her book, Doughty Street Chambers, 2 November 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DNpj-P4XUAUI5qo.jpg" alt="" title="Sara Ryan at the launch of her book, Doughty Street Chambers, 2 November 2017" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sara Ryan at the launch of her book, Doughty Street Chambers, London, November 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>• Under pressure from the #JusticeforLB campaign, NHS England commissioned an independent review of deaths of people with a learning disability or mental health problem in contact with Southern Health (from April 2011 to March 2015), known as the Mazars review. Despite Southern Health’s attempts to stop it, the report was published in December 2015. Mazars identified multiple failures of leadership and governance, and revealed that Southern Health had failed properly to investigate more than a thousand unexpected deaths, and that fewer than 1% of the unexpected deaths of people with learning disabilities were looked into. <a href="https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2015/12/mazars-rep.pdf">PDF here.</a> The matter was debated in the House of Lords on 10 December 2015. <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldhansrd/text/151210-0001.htm">Text here</a>.</p> <p>• The Mazars findings prompted the Secretary of State for Health to ask the Care Quality Commission to examine how acute, community and mental health NHS trusts across England investigate and learn from deaths and identify necessary improvements. That review, published in December 2016 (<a href="https://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/20161213-learning-candour-accountability-full-report.pdf">PDF here</a>), reported that “families often have a poor experience of investigations and are not always treated with kindness, respect and honesty.” And: “This was particularly the case for families and carers of people with a mental health problem or learning disability.”</p> <p>•&nbsp;On 9 June 2016, Southern Health accepted full responsibility for Connor’s death, admitted negligence, admitted that it had violated both Connor’s and his family’s human rights. Statement <a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news-archive/2016/trust-statement-regarding-connor-sparrowhawks-death/">here</a> and below. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/KatrinaPERCY_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ex-chief executive Katrina Percy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/KatrinaPERCY_0.jpg" alt="" title="Ex-chief executive Katrina Percy" width="240" height="264" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ex-chief executive Katrina Percy</span></span></span>• In <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36922039">July 2016 the BBC revealed</a> that Southern Health had handed contracts worth millions of pounds to past associates of chief executive Katrina Percy.</p><p>•&nbsp;In August 2016, under pressure from the public, patients and families bereaved by the Trust’s neglect, the Southern Health NHS Trust Board invited chief executive Katrina Percy to step sideways into a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37288843">£240,000-a-year job created especially for her</a>. </p><p>• In October 2016, under continued pressure, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/190k-payoff-for-ex-chief-of-nhs-trust-that-failed-to-investig">Percy stepped down from that role with a £190,000 payoff</a>. At the time of writing (November 2017) Percy is advertising her <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/katrina-percy-88481258/">“strategic consultancy” services on Linkedin</a>. She cites her “inspirational and visionary leadership”, her reputation for “creating a culture which is open, accessible and energised”, and for “delivering ambitious service transformation, financial, quality and operational performance.”</p> <p>•&nbsp;In August 2017 a medical tribunal found multiple failings by Dr Valerie Murphy, the lead clinician responsible for treating Connor. During the tribunal Sara Ryan was grilled for two hours by Dr Murphy’s barrister which she described as a “barbaric experience”. Ryan <a href="http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/15488161.__39_Inhumane__39___Connor_Sparrowhawk__39_s_mum_outraged_by_delay_to_tribunal_decision/">told the Oxford Mail</a>: “It was truly traumatising. It was a complete shock.” In November 2017 the tribunal found Murphy <a href="http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/15656594.TRIBUNAL___Deplorable__care_failures_in_Connor_Sparrowhawk_tragedy/">guilty of misconduct</a> and said she had failed in ways that “fellow professionals would regard to be deplorable.” The Tribunal is due to meet in February 2018 to consider a sanction for Dr Murphy.</p> <p>• On 18 September 2017, Southern Health <a href="http://press.hse.gov.uk/2017/southern-health-nhs-foundation-trust-pleads-guilty-following-hse-prosecution/">pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws</a> in relation to Connor’s death. Two months later Southern Health <a href="https://www.shponline.co.uk/southern-health-nhs-trust-admits-guilt-womans-death/">admitted guilt</a> in relation to the death in April 2012 of 45 year old Teresa Colvin. The Trust’s new chief executive Dr Nick Broughton said: “The prosecutions against the trust are extremely serious and have contributed to a wholesale programme of change.”</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_CROP_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_CROP_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="23" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">We can't stop thinking about this dream of <a href="https://twitter.com/sarasiobhan">@sarasiobhan</a> 's. Wouldn't it just be incredible? <a href="https://t.co/g4ugkT9Zl5">https://t.co/g4ugkT9Zl5</a> <a href="https://t.co/WexHTdOa6W">pic.twitter.com/WexHTdOa6W</a></p>— My Life My Choice (@mylifemychoice1) <a href="https://twitter.com/mylifemychoice1/status/723161111189659648">April 21, 2016</a></blockquote><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><h2><a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news-archive/2016/trust-statement-regarding-connor-sparrowhawks-death/">Trust statement regarding Connor Sparrowhawk’s death</a></h2> <p><span style="font-size: 1.2em;"><strong>Southern Health NHS Trust Statement, June 2016</strong></span></p><p>Almost three years ago Connor Sparrowhawk died while in our care, for which we are deeply sorry, and we would like to take this opportunity to again offer our unreserved apologies to his family for his preventable death.</p> <p>We have now been able to come to a successfully mediated settlement with Connor’s family, as detailed in the statement below. The statement and an easy version of the statement are also attached on the right hand side of this page as pdf documents.</p> <p><strong>PUBLIC STATEMENT BY THE TRUST</strong></p> <p>1. Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (“the Trust”) accepts that it was responsible for the death of Connor Sparrowhawk, an 18-year-old boy who was a much loved son, brother and friend. He died on 4th July 2013 whilst in the care and custody of the Short Term Assessment and Treatment (“STATT”) Unit, Slade House, for which the Trust was responsible. Connor’s preventable death was the result of multiple systemic and individual failures by the Trust in the care provided to Connor on the STATT Unit.</p> <p>2. The Trust accepts:</p> <p>(i) The findings of the independent investigation into the death of Connor Sparrowhawk by Verita, dated February 2014, which concluded that his death was preventable and found significant failings in the care provided to Connor in particular concerning the management of his epilepsy;</p> <h2><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/southern_banner.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/southern_banner.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="121" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news-archive/2016/trust-statement-regarding-connor-sparrowhawks-death/"></a></h2><p><a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news-archive/2016/trust-statement-regarding-connor-sparrowhawks-death/"></a></p><p>(ii) The findings of the inquest jury on 16th October 2015, which determined that Connor died by drowning following an epileptic seizure while in the bath, contributed to by neglect* due to a number of very serious failings. These failings included both failures in the systems and processes in place to ensure adequate assessment, care and risk management of epilepsy in patients with learning disability at the STATT Unit, and in terms of errors and omissions in relation to Connor’s care whilst on the Unit. The Trust accepts that contributory factors included:</p> <ul><li>(a) A lack of clinical leadership on the STATT Unit;</li><li>(b) A lack of adequate training and the provision of guidance for nursing staff in the assessment, care and risk management of epilepsy;</li><li>(c) Very serious failings in relation to Connor’s bathing arrangements;&nbsp;</li><li>(d) Failure to complete an adequate history of Connor’s epilepsy;&nbsp;</li><li>(e) Failure to complete an epilepsy risk assessment soon after admission;</li><li>(f) Failure to complete an epilepsy risk assessment thereafter;&nbsp;</li><li>(g) Inadequate communication by staff with Connor’s family regarding his epilepsy care, needs and risks.</li></ul><p> 3. Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust acknowledges and accepts that:</p> <p>(i) The failings identified by Verita and by the inquest jury:</p> <ul><li>(a) Caused Connor’s death.</li><li>(b) Were negligent breaches of the duty of care the Trust owed to Connor.</li><li>(c) Violated Connor’s right to life protected by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.</li><li>(d) Violated the Article 2 rights of Connor’s family.</li></ul> <p>(ii) The Trust failed to take all reasonable steps to locate all relevant evidence and to disclose this to the Coroner and Connor’s family.</p> <p>4. The Trust will pay Connor’s family the sum of £80,000 by way of compensation for its unlawful acts and omissions.</p> <p>5. The Trust fully acknowledges that Dr. Sara Ryan has conducted herself and the Justice for LB campaign in a dignified, fair and reasonable way. To the extent that there have been comments to the contrary by Trust staff and family members of staff, these do not represent the view of the Trust and are expressly disavowed.</p> <p>*As that word is understood in coronial law.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><h2><a href="http://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html"><em>Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;A Death by Indifference</em>, by Sara Ryan</a>&nbsp;with a foreword by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.&nbsp;</h2><h2><strong>To order a copy for £12.99 go to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html">Jessica Kingsley Publishers</a>.<hr /></strong></h2><p><strong><br /></strong></p><h2><strong><em>Produced by Clare Sambrook for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</em></strong></h2><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_CROP_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_CROP_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="23" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></em></strong></p><p><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></p><hr /><p><strong><em><br /></em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/tom-ryan/since-my-brother-s-preventable-death">Since my brother’s preventable death . . .</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/190k-payoff-for-ex-chief-of-nhs-trust-that-failed-to-investig">£190K payoff for ex-chief of NHS Trust that failed to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/imogen-tyler/connor-sparrowhawk-erosion-of-accountability-in-nhs">Connor Sparrowhawk: the erosion of accountability in the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/on-connor-sparrowhawk-s-avoidable-death">On Connor Sparrowhawk’s avoidable death</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/sara-ryan/ministry-of-justice-says-you-don-t-need-lawyer-at-inquest-trust-state">Ministry of Justice says you don’t need a lawyer at an Inquest. Trust the State</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/ally-rogers/we-apologise-to-anybody-who-feels-let-down">‘We apologise to anybody who feels let down’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/uk-government-s-inversion-of-accountability">The UK government’s inversion of accountability</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight ourNHS Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Sara Ryan Wed, 29 Nov 2017 00:06:20 +0000 Sara Ryan and Clare Sambrook 114931 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How lawyers fail migrants in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/mia-light/lawyers-fail-migrants-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Access to justice has diminished almost to vanishing point, leaving asylum seekers and irregular migrants at risk of exploitation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/1.NEWbiometric_permit.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Detail from a Biometric Residence Permit"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/1.NEWbiometric_permit.jpg" alt="lead " title="Detail from a Biometric Residence Permit" width="460" height="254" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A lawyer is charging Suleiman £900 for an application that should be free for him as a refugee.</span></span></span></p><p class="Standard">I strain to understand what Amir* is saying; his English is broken and the phone signal in Brook House immigration removal centre is notoriously bad. “I have a ticket for Friday” he says. It’s Monday. I’m not sure what to say. “Do you have a lawyer?” I ask limply. I’m not optimistic.</p> <p class="Standard">Most likely, Amir does not have a lawyer. He might not know how to go about getting one. One in three people in detention do not know they are entitled to 30 minutes of free legal advice. It’s also possible that Amir’s case is not in the scope of Legal Aid since the <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/cuts-legal-aid-have-decimated-access-justice-thousands-most-vulnerable">cuts</a>. Best case scenario is that Amir is entitled to Legal Aid and does understand the Legal Aid <a href="http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/united-kingdom/detention-asylum-seekers/procedural-safeguards/legal-assistance">‘surgery’</a> system in England’s immigration removal centres. But he will be told that he must wait for an appointment, as most people <a href="https://hubble-live-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/biduk/redactor2_assets/files/213/Legal_Advice_Survey_-_Spring_2017.pdf">have to wait over 1 week</a> and there is no official mechanism to prioritise people. The Home Office will have forcibly removed Amir before he has a chance to secure legal representation.</p> <p>Or maybe Amir does have a lawyer — one that he is paying for privately. He will be paying privately because, due to those practical and administrative barriers, he cannot get Legal Aid. Amir’s private lawyer might have come recommended by someone in his community. Amir might be very happy with his lawyer, because they’re not letting on how bad the situation is, merely feeding Amir with legal sounding lies. Amir might also be angry at his lawyer, for being unresponsive or incompetent. </p> <p>Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, founder of the Refugee Studies centre at Oxford University and the <a href="http://www.refugeelegalaidinformation.org/">Rights in Exile Program</a>, is all too familiar with these scenarios. </p> <p>She told me of a lawyer selling legal services to asylum seekers and others out of a house in Oxford, even though he’s been struck off. </p> <p class="Standard">Another practitioner, known to the <a href="http://www.unitycentreglasgow.org/">Unity Centre</a> where I volunteer, has for years offered women held at the notorious Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire free consultations and the option to pay after work done. Sounds attractive? Time and time again he has taken action that has jeapordised women’s cases irreversibly and then pursued them and their families for money. </p> <p class="Standard">Unity volunteers try to warn women against him but it’s difficult. Many women see him as their only hope.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/2.NEWbiometric_permit.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/2.NEWbiometric_permit.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="223" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Standard">Angel, who lives in a city in the north of England, tells me she’s heard that her ‘lawyer’ has almost definitely left the country. She says he’s left with her money and her documents. All her documents. Her and her son’s identity cards, and the photographs and the original papers necessary to substantiate her claim.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">I meet Suleiman, an elderly Eritrean man at a drop-in centre. Straightaway he tells me of his mental health issues. “I was in hospital a long time in my country,” he says. Suleiman proudly shows me his Biometric Residence Permit, that coveted pink and blue card that conveys his leave to remain as a refugee. It will expire he explains, this November, and he must pay £900 to renew it. I’m confused by this because I know applications to renew refugee status are free. They are one of the few applications still covered by legal aid and the application itself has no fee for refugees. </p><p class="Standard">I speak to the drop-in centre staff who confirm that they are aware of the situation. But Suleiman’s mind is made up. He wants to use this lawyer and believes it necessary to pay the £900. Such blatant malpractice, preying on the vulnerable, can only be complained about with the consent of Suleiman who does not give it. This lawyer will get his £900 and this lawyer remains untouchable. </p> <p class="Standard">I meet Tariq at a community meal, whilst doing outreach for Unity. He came to the UK aged 14 from Iran. He speaks with a Scottish accent and is small, still child-like in appearance. The Home Office refused Tariq’s asylum claim when he first came, but gave him leave to remain in the UK until he was 17 and a half years old. Now he is 19 and awaiting the Home Office to decide on a “fresh claim”. Tariq could be detained and forcibly removed from the UK at any time. </p> <p class="Standard">It is standard practice for the Home Office to give children who are refused asylum leave to remain in the UK which expires just before their 18th birthday, it is known as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (or <a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/resources/uasc-leave/">UASC</a>) leave. But being granted UASC leave does not mean your future in the UK is secured, and any competent lawyer would advise a client (child or otherwise) to appeal the refusal of an asylum claim if possible. </p> <p class="Standard">I listen to Tariq recount his story. He tells me that he speaks English now and gets what is going on, but in the beginning he didn’t understand anything. Not the English language, nor the UK’s legal processes. “My lawyer told me there was no need to appeal the Home Office’s refusal, because I got leave to remain,” he says. “I had no reason not to trust him, he said he would look after me.” There’s nothing I can say. “My social worker is my witness,” he says. “My lawyer said that, he told me not to appeal even though I could have done, but now he acts like he didn’t. My social worker didn’t know the law either. She listened to my lawyer and she trusted him too.” </p> <p class="Standard">With the appeal deadline now long passed, Tariq is what is called “appeal rights exhausted”. Tariq’s lawyer did not apply to extend his UASC leave and instead advised him to make further submissions to the Home Office (often referred to as a “fresh claim”). Tariq had to <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/forcing-penniless-asylum-seekers-to-travel-to-liverpool-is-hardly-good-customer-service-9998953.html">travel to Liverpool at his own expense</a> to submit this. Now all he can do is wait.</p> <p class="Standard">What makes matters worse is that it is apparent Tariq’s lawyer had prepared his fresh claim badly, it is weak when it could be strong. Tariq has been failed and there is no redress, as according to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission any complaint <a href="https://www.scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk/making-a-complaint/advice-and-information/time-limits.aspx">should be made within 1 year</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/5.NEWbiometric_permit copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/5.NEWbiometric_permit copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Standard">Tariq’s lawyer is not what is known as a ‘back-street’ lawyer. He would not be considered a rogue practitioner, in fact he is the principal solicitor of a well-known high-street firm. His bad practice is testament to the deplorable quality of representation that those seeking asylum or with irregular immigration status may encounter.</p> <p>Why is this happening? </p> <p>I asked former barrister and vice-chair of the <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/">Institute of Race Relations</a>, Frances Webber. She said: “Access to justice has diminished almost to vanishing point, making a mockery of our supposed adherence to values of fairness, justice and the rule of law.” She said: “People who don't have English as their first language are expected to navigate areas acknowledged to be of fiendish legal complexity on their own, without legal help.”</p> <p class="Standard">Cuts to Legal Aid implemented on 1 April 2013 have been <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/cuts-legal-aid-have-decimated-access-justice-thousands-most-vulnerable">devastating</a>. The pressure on lawyers has increased, with desperation often leading to shoddy practice. To stay above water, some firms take on too many clients. This means that there is not enough time to communicate with clients or explain things fully.</p> <p class="Standard">Alice, a solicitor in a busy Legal Aid immigration firm, tells me: “I have client appointments all day.”</p> <p class="Standard">I ask her: “If you see clients all day, when do you do the work that you’re promising in the appointments?”</p> <p class="Standard">“I stay late,” she says flatly. </p> <p class="Standard">“Does everyone stay late?” </p> <p class="Standard">Alice gives me a look.</p> <p class="Standard">Asylum seekers and other migrants may have multiple vulnerabilites. Denied the right to work, threatened with removal, maybe locked up or living in dangerous accommodation, struggling with language difficulties. People’s lives often depend on remaining in the UK. </p> <p class="Standard">They’re perfect prey for dodgy lawyers. </p> <p class="Standard">Making a complaint against a lawyer is a complicated and laborious process. One that requires a good grasp of the English language, time, energy and confidence. The bigger the mistake a lawyer makes, the worse a situation a person is likely to be in. Securing alternative legal representation and taking steps to regularise immigration status will be likely priorities, not engaging in the bureaucratic complaints process. Lawyers can therefore bet safely that those they wrong are not likely to seek redress. </p><p dir="ltr">Many Legal Aid firms continue to do right by their clients, including law centres across the UK who recognise the benefits of supplementing Legal Aid income with other funding. But securing funding is a job in itself. The odds are against the good guys. These<span>&nbsp;stories are those that I have encountered personally in the last few months. There must be countless others.</span></p> <p><em>* All clients’ names have been changed.</em><em> </em><em>If you are interested in assisting&nbsp;people&nbsp;to make complaints about immigration lawyers, please contact <a href="mailto:immigration.info2@gmail.com">immigration.info2@gmail.com</a>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em><span>Editing and images by Clare Sambrook for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</span></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/lucy-alper/locked-up-pushed-out-shaida-s-welcome-to-britain">Locked up, pushed out. Shaida’s welcome to Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/money-talks-meet-three-people-who-want-to-live-in-uk">Money talks: Meet three people who want to live in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry">‘If I’d known what to ask for, I wouldn’t have gone hungry’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight ShineALight Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Mia Light Tue, 17 Oct 2017 07:15:04 +0000 Mia Light 114012 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘How do we get out if there’s a fire?’ In Yorkshire, G4S tenants live in fear https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Security company G4S housed six families with babies and toddlers in a fire-trap hostel in Halifax.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AACHILD_WINDOW_460.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Looking out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AACHILD_WINDOW_460.JPG" alt="" title="Looking out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A child looks out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>“The only way that landlord will do anything is when children die in there,” neighbours warned. “It’s because we are black, they don’t care,” one tenant said. They’re talking about a hostel that is home to six families and their nine children, most of them babies and toddlers.</p> <p>Tenants of the six flats in a converted house in Halifax, West Yorkshire, have told me they are frightened. They say the wiring is faulty, the hallways are blocked, and there’s repeated leaks and flooding. They’ve shown me the evidence. They worry about risk of fire, and how they might escape.</p> <p>I first learned about the hostel a little over two weeks ago, on Friday 9 June. A charity worker who supports one of the tenants asked for my help. She said tenants had struggled to get anybody to act on their concerns about fire safety and repairs. </p> <p>Some feared speaking out, worried that this might affect their claims for asylum. All of the tenants are asylum seekers.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A_Street_view_hostel.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The G4S hostel: 17 asylum-seekers live in six flats above shops (images by John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A_Street_view_hostel.JPG" alt="" title="The G4S hostel: 17 asylum-seekers live in six flats above shops (images by John Grayson)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S hostel: 17 asylum-seekers live in six flats above shops (images by John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>The worker told me: “At 8.15pm on Tuesday 6 June I went to the flats. I noticed there was no indicator light on the alarm control panel. I contacted the regional manager for G4S, who called a repair man. He arrived just before 9pm, and began installing smoke alarms in the hallways. I am really worried about how safe people are in there.”</p><h2>A visit to the hostel</h2><p><span><span>I visited the hostel on Saturday 10 June and spent four hours inspecting, taking photographs, listening to tenants’ concerns.</span></span></p><p><span>The hostel is part of a converted townhouse, just off Halifax town centre, in the borough of Calderdale. The flats sit atop an electrical shop and another shop, apparently abandoned.</span></p><p>Directly above the shops are two flats. Another floor up, three more flats. Up another flight of stairs, at the top of the house is Flat 6, with more stairs leading up to a mezzanine within the flat.</p> <p>The hostel is owned by a private landlord and managed under a UK government contract by G4S, the international security company. A subcontractor procured the property. The client is the Home Office. Calderdale Council and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services also have responsibilities towards tenants.</p> <p>One dangerous consequence of the privatisation of asylum housing, apparent in this case, is the fog around who is responsible for what.</p> <p>Here’s what some tenants told me. For their protection we’re calling them Mary, Brian, Eric, Helen, Tasmin, Joanne.</p><h2>Water rushes through the ceiling</h2> <p>“One day in January the electric main board was flashing ‘fire in room 3’ and we dialled 999,” Mary said. “The fire engine could not find the address. I was jumping up and down in the street waving my arms to get them to the flats. It took them forty-five minutes to get here from our call. They said that a leak from a boiler in the flat above had caused the alarm.”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/B.water_thru_electrics.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Water rushes through light fittings"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/B.water_thru_electrics.JPG" alt="" title="Water rushes through light fittings" width="460" height="215" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Water rushes through light fittings (screenshot from tenant's video)</span></span></span></p><p>Brian worked as a builder in his home country. He worries about the risk of electrical fire.&nbsp;</p><p><span>“Water pours in everywhere,” he said. “This happened last week.” He showed me a video on his camera. I could see water rushing through the light fittings.</span></p><p>Joanne pointed to exposed wires hanging from the ceiling on one of the landings. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/C.water-leak-electrics.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Evidence of water penetration and ceiling repairs"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/C.water-leak-electrics.JPG" alt="" title="Evidence of water penetration and ceiling repairs" width="240" height="174" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Evidence of water ingress, ceiling repairs</span></span></span></p><p>“Perhaps the wires are not live there,” Joanne said. “But they frighten the older children who hear us talking about the water and the electrics causing fires.”&nbsp;<span>Signs of water penetration and ceiling repairs were all around.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/D.G4S_hob.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="This hob replaced the cooker that fused the hostel&#039;s electrical circuits (John Grayson) "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/D.G4S_hob.JPG" alt="lead " title="This hob replaced the cooker that fused the hostel&#039;s electrical circuits (John Grayson) " width="240" height="180" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Replacement hob </span></span></span></p><p><span>Eric said his G4S cooker had fused the electrical circuits throughout the building. He showed me the replacement two-ring hob that G4S had supplied for himself, his wife and their baby.</span></p><p>Joanne took me to the only external door at the rear of the hostel. Because so many families with young children live here, the hallway is full of buggies. </p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G.Shoddy_work_behind_cooker.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Shoddy electrical work behind a cooker"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G.Shoddy_work_behind_cooker.JPG" alt="" title="Shoddy electrical work behind a cooker" width="240" height="189" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shoddy electrical work behind a cooker</span></span></span>“This is our only escape, we have to leave the buggies here, the stairs are so difficult, there is no fire escape,” Joanne said.&nbsp;</p><p>A neighbour who knows the flats had told her: “The only way that landlord will do anything is when children die in there.”</p><p><span>All the tenants said that over eight months, time and time again, they had contacted the G4S helpline pleading for better and safe conditions for their children.</span></p><p><span>Mary said: “They never do anything, even for the big things, heating and flooding. They don’t care. It’s because we are black, they don’t care.”</span></p> <p>She told me about when the downstairs corridor flooded: “There was water full of oil and waste from the drain outside.” She showed me video on her phone. The water was ankle deep.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/F.flood_best.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The flood water was ankle deep"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/F.flood_best.jpg" alt="" title="The flood water was ankle deep" width="460" height="490" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The flood water was ankle deep (screenshot from tenant video)</span></span></span></p><p>Tasmin pointed to wet plaster in a corner of the kitchen units in her flat. </p> <p>“Always water comes in,” she said. On her phone were pictures of the debris left when the wall unit crashed down, she said, narrowly missing her six-year-old daughter.</p><p><span>Tenants told me about other worries.</span></p> <p>“Early one morning I heard noises in my living room which woke me and I found a man from G4S there,” one lone mother said. </p><p><span>“He said he had used his own key to get in. My daughter was terrified, she has bad memories of men hurting me in the past. For months the door on my toilet and bathroom would not shut. G4S never did anything. I could have been in the toilet or showering when that man came in.”</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E.buggies_hall.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Buggies crowd the escape route"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E.buggies_hall.JPG" alt="" title="Buggies crowd the escape route" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Buggies crowd the escape route (John Grayson)</span></span></span></span></p> <p>She went on: “The local women’s centre suggested to G4S that I get a chain on my door. They refused, but the women’s centre threatened to get the work done themselves, and G4S put a chain on the door, and one on the door of another woman here — but still refused to fit chains on the other four flats.”</p><p>One of the support workers told me: “Three months ago, in March, St Augustine’s community centre sent complaints about the hostel to G4S, but nothing was done about them.” </p> <p>Another tenant recalled a visit from the Home Office: “G4S took them only to the flats where they knew the tenants could not speak good English and were frightened to complain. When I asked why they did not come to my flat, they said the Home Office did not have time.”&nbsp;</p><h2>If you won’t listen to the tenants. . . </h2> <p>G4S knows me and my work. I’m a housing academic. I work alongside refugees at South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group, <a href="http://www.symaag.org.uk">SYMAAG</a>. </p> <p>Since G4S won the Home Office asylum housing contract five years ago I’ve <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson">published quite a lot about them</a>. </p> <p>On Monday 12 June I contacted G4S and Calderdale Borough councillors and told them that the hostel was unsafe.</p> <p>My intervention prompted an emergency inspection by council officers and West Yorkshire fire service on the Tuesday. On the Wednesday, a G4S welfare officer called in. One tenant suggested an emergency fire drill: “We have never had one, and it would show we cannot get out of the building safely.” </p> <p>The G4S welfare officer allegedly refused, saying: “That’s up to G4S, not me.”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/H.REAR_VIEW_LITTLE_BOY.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hostel rear view, little boy just visible at top window (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/H.REAR_VIEW_LITTLE_BOY.JPG" alt="" title="Hostel rear view, little boy just visible at top window (John Grayson)" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hostel rear view (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Heidi Wilson is Calderdale Council’s head of environment and housing services. After the inspections she told me that the council took reports of risks to tenants “very seriously” and was “giving them a high priority”. They had given G4S a list of actions and a “short time frame”. Should G4S fail to make the necessary improvements the council “would certainly consider enforcement action”.&nbsp;</p><h2>A dangerous place for babies</h2><p>When I called in to check on progress on Thursday 15 June, I found G4S workers making repairs that had been first reported months ago. I was told that the Home Office was going to send someone to inspect the place.</p><p>I climbed all the way up to the top of the house to see Helen. She lives up there with husband Brian and their three year old son. Another stairway led to the small mezzanine where their son had had access to a floor-level window. On Tuesday&nbsp;<span>the council had noted the “poor guarding to the window”. So&nbsp;</span><span>G4S workmen had boarded up the stairway.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/J_BRAND_NEW_NOTICEBOARD15_June_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Brand new noticeboard, erected 15 June 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/J_BRAND_NEW_NOTICEBOARD15_June_0.jpg" alt="" title="Brand new noticeboard, erected 15 June 2017" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Brand new noticeboard, erected 15 June 2017 (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Helen told me: “The G4S boss when he came up here yesterday said: ‘This is a dangerous place for babies.’”</p><p>As I left the property I saw the G4S supervisor putting up a noticeboard by the front entrance, near the alarm control panel. He had pinned up no-smoking signs, a&nbsp;<span>warning about the absence of fire extinguishers,&nbsp;</span><span>a fire safety log book and a floor plan. Someone had taken a fat red marker pen and marked out a rough escape route on the plan.&nbsp;</span></p><p>All the information was in English. Most tenants are still learning the language.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/I.ESCAPE_PLAN_15_June.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At last, an escape plan (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/I.ESCAPE_PLAN_15_June.jpg" alt="" title="At last, an escape plan (John Grayson)" width="460" height="411" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At last, an escape plan (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>I set about researching fire safety, emailing and phoning the tenants and G4S with more questions.</p> <p>It wasn’t easy. Fire safety regulations are fiendishly complex. G4S’s own spokesman confessed to having difficulty. </p> <p>G4S appeared to be in breach of fire regulations. </p> <p>Before the hostel opened last year, it seems, they should have arranged for a fire risk assessment by a qualified fire safety practitioner — as required by the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1541/contents/made">Fire Safety Order 2005.</a></p><p>From what I could see, G4S had an obligation to test the alarm every week and hold a monthly fire drill. Tenants told me these things hadn’t happened.</p><div><p class="mag-quote-left">Tenant: It’s because we are black, they don’t care.</p><p>The regulations require that testing dates are recorded in a log book displayed in the building. The log book on the newly erected notice board contained just one entry —&nbsp;for a test dated April 2017.</p> <p>All escape corridors and landings should have smoke alarms and emergency lighting. But the hallway smoke alarms were fitted on Tuesday 6 June 2017, eight months after the hostel opened. </p> <p>Every kitchen should have a fire blanket. And they do. I asked one tenant, who is fluent in English, to open the packaging. She said: “The instructions are confusing. No one has ever told us about fire safety here. There are no instructions on the fire blanket or anywhere else in any language — except difficult English.”</p> <p>My reading of the regulations suggests that G4S has a responsibility to inform and regularly update tenants on fire safety — and to provide safety information in appropriate languages.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Neighbour: The only way that landlord will do anything is when children die in there.</p><p>All of these things seem anyway like basic common sense if you are housing multiple families with small children in a four or five storey house.</p> <p>As landlords of asylum housing for babies and small children, G4S has particular obligations. </p> <p>The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 (<a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2009/11/section/55">Section 55)</a> requires that immigration and asylum functions be carried out with respect for the need to “safeguard and promote the welfare of children”.</p> <p>After the Calderdale council inspection on Tuesday 13 June, one tenant told me: “The council man said the bedroom with my children should not be used. He said the window was too small to let light in for them.” &nbsp;</p> <p>I asked G4S to respond to the issues raised in this article. On 15 June a G4S spokesman said the building had a valid electrical certificate and was “compliant with fire safety standards”. </p> <p>About the flooding, G4S said: “There has been a very recent issue with damp after the landlord installed a new concrete walkway outside the property which is not draining effectively.&nbsp;We are in discussions to have a drain fitted. A roof leak has also recently been rectified and the landlord will be making good any cosmetic damage that arose.”&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/K.G4Slogo2JUNE2006.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/K.G4Slogo2JUNE2006.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>And the intrusion? G4S said: “Our protocol is that when our staff visit a property they knock twice (leaving a gap in between).&nbsp;If there is no answer they unlock the door and call out to announce themselves.&nbsp;If there is still no answer they then proceed into the property, calling out that they are from G4S. We are entirely confident that this procedure is — and was — followed at this property.”</p> <p>At the company’s request —&nbsp;(the spokesman sounded quite flustered) — we delayed publication of this piece to give G4S time to provide further comment.</p><p>On Tuesday 20 June, I tuned in to BBC Radio Sheffield, for&nbsp;<span>Toby Foster</span><span>’s</span>&nbsp;breakfast show. He had an <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p056f4dx">interview with John Whitwam</a>, the ex-army officer who is G4S managing director, immigration and borders. Whitwam told listeners that G4S had about 18,000 asylum-seekers in 5,000 properties. “There is a great deal of scrutiny,” he said. “These properties are probably the most inspected in the UK.”</p></div><p><span>Whitwam said the G4S helpline took 4,000 calls last month. Toby Foster cut in: “5,000 houses, 4,000 calls! Nearly every house is ringing you every month!”</span></p> <p>Whitwam replied: “These aren’t <em>all</em> complaints.” And then: “That’s not to say many of them aren’t.”</p> <p>I was still waiting for the company’s response to my queries on Tuesday evening, when a tenant called to say that an extractor fan had fallen off the wall in Flat 2. She said she was only slightly injured, but her four year old child was hysterical.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/L.John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="John Whitwam on BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/L.John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire.jpg" alt="" title="John Whitwam on BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Whitwam on BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>On Tuesday evening, Brian was back in touch. He said the G4S welfare officer had been round to tell them: “The Home Office are coming tomorrow, you have to say everything is fine in the flats.”</p> <p>On Wednesday afternoon Brian called again. He said the woman from the Home Office had been round, she’d done more talking than listening and assured them that if there’s a fire, they’ll have plenty of time to get out.</p><p>On Thursday another tenant called to say that workmen were, at last, fitting smoke alarms in tenants’ rooms.&nbsp;</p> <h2>A curious response from G4S</h2> <p>Also on Wednesday came the company’s detailed response to my queries.</p> <p>It was odd.</p> <p>G4S offered a series of curious assertions that neither confirmed nor denied tenants’ allegations about fire safety, but, rather, bypassed their concerns.</p> <p>For example, G4S noted: “Smoke alarm and fire alarm tests as recorded in our monthly property inspection report.”</p> <p>On the absence of fire drills, G4S claimed: “Drills are not mandatory for private dwellings.”</p> <p><em>Private</em> dwellings? </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">G4S: These properties are probably the most inspected in the UK.</p><p>And: “All fire safety information is provided as part of the induction when asylum seekers move into the property and information in 71 languages is available in the home.”</p> <p>Seventy-one languages!</p> <p>About the absence of fire log books, G4S claimed: they “are sometimes taken away and used as notebooks by residents.”</p> <p>And the apparent failure to arrange a fire risk assessment on the building until after I got involved? G4S claimed: “All fire alarm systems are checked monthly.” </p> <p>About the Fire Service inspection of 13 June, prompted by my interventions, G4S claimed: “All adjustments recommended have now been completed. Any observations made by the fire services regarding door fittings or openings were rectified within two days.”</p> <p>About the alarm control panel that had either been turned off or was defective, G4S said: “We require service users to report defects to control panels and we operate a 24 hours turn around policy to fix or replace such systems.” </p> <p>G4S has claimed repeatedly that it <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8e793754-d6dd-3531-b8b9-c00de20fb4a9?mhq5j=e3">loses money on asylum housing.</a> The company, which had no prior experience of housing asylum seekers, won the Home Office contract after a computer-based reverse auction. G4S bid £8.42 per family member per night (according to contract details revealed in a High Court judgement <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2017/200.html">here</a>). At that price, packing 17 people into the Halifax hostel brings the monthly take to around £4,300.</p> <h2>Who’re you gonna call?</h2> <p>Until last Thursday, Calderdale <a href="https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/residents/community-and-living/equality-and-diversity/asylum-seekers-and-refugees">Council’s website told asylum-seekers</a> in the borough that their housing was provided, not by G4S, but by another company, Cascade Homes. The council supplied a phone number tenants could call if they needed help and advice.</p> <p>I called the number. An angry man picked up. He said he was fed up with getting calls and he had nothing to do with Cascade.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/N.calderdalewebsite.20JUNE2017_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Calderdale Council&#039;s misleading advice to asylum-seekers (screenshot 20 June 2017)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/N.calderdalewebsite.20JUNE2017_1.jpg" alt="" title="Calderdale Council&#039;s misleading advice to asylum-seekers (screenshot 20 June 2017)" width="460" height="382" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Calderdale Council's misleading advice to asylum-seekers (screenshot 20 June 2017)</span></span></span></p><p>I told the council about that —&nbsp;they corrected the online advice. They said Cascade no longer managed properties in Calderdale, only procured them. G4S confirmed: “Yes, all properties in the Halifax area are provided by Cascade.”</p><p>I was sorry that Cascade had been given any role to play. </p> <p>Over years I’ve reported on their shoddy behaviour. How Cascade asylum properties in Leeds were <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">infested with cockroaches and slugs</a>.&nbsp;<span>Male staff </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-%E2%80%98abject-disregard-for-human-dign">harassed women tenants</a><span>.&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/g4s-forced-to-step-in-over-sub-contractors-performance/7001552.article">Cascade failed to pay energy bills and council tax bills</a><span>. </span></p><p><span>My evidence has been&nbsp;</span><span>cited in Parliamentary inquiries and debates. Speaking in the Commons on 27 February 2013, </span><a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/71/71vw32008_HC71_01_VIRT_HomeAffairs_ASY-93.htm">Mark Durkan MP said</a><span>: “What is especially alarming is that the neglect and suffering go on, regardless of this kind of public and Parliamentary exposure. There has been little impact on the everyday practice of G4S and their subcontractors.”&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>In February 2014 G4S announced that they&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/g4s-forced-to-step-in-over-sub-contractors-performance/7001552.article">had dropped Cascade.</a></p> <h2>‘<span>I watched that place burn</span><span>’</span></h2> <p>While we were working on this piece, on Wednesday 14 June 2017, fire gutted a tower block in West London with appalling loss of life. </p> <p>The block was called Grenfell Tower. </p> <p>The residents were mostly people of colour, and poor. The first victim to be named was <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-first-victim-named-mohammed-alhajali-syrian-refugee-a7791401.html">Mohammed Alhajali, a Syrian refugee</a>. </p> <p>Grenfell tenants had warned repeatedly that the flats were unsafe. Their warnings were variously dismissed, ignored, and met with legal threats. </p> <p>“White tenants said their concerns were ultimately ignored, but officials were more likely to listen to them,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/opinion/london-tower-grenfell-fire.html">British journalist Dawn Foster</a>&nbsp;<span>wrote</span><span>&nbsp;in the New York Times. “Black and South Asian survivors told me they felt the implicit message from everyone they contacted before the fire for help with the building was ‘you are a guest in this borough, and a guest in this country, you have no right to complain’.”</span></p> <p>Back in the Halifax hostel, the tenants have come from East Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.&nbsp;<span>Up in the top flat, Brian told me how Grenfell had shocked him: “I watched that place burn,” he said. “I thought I couldn’t get out of this flat if there is a fire.”</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><ul><li>Edited by Clare Sambrook for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light</a> at openDemocracy.</li><li>To follow John on Twitter: @SYMAAG</li><li>To follow Clare and Shine A Light:&nbsp;</li><li>@CLARESAMBROOK</li><li>@SHINEreports</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-my-asylum-home-i-d-offer-you-seat-if-i-had-one">Welcome to my asylum home. I’d offer you a seat — if I had one</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jackie-long/headbutt-bitch-serco-guard-yarl-s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">Rats in the yard: 4 years of UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/gareth-mitchell/high-court-blasts-outrageous-assault-by-tascor-staff-on-tort">High Court blasts ‘outrageous’ assault by Tascor staff on torture survivor</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/margaret-hodge/parliamentary-watchdog-too-often-private-sector-contractors-ethical-stand">Parliamentary watchdog: too often private sector contractors&#039; ethical standards found wanting</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/uk-government-s-inversion-of-accountability">The UK government’s inversion of accountability</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/capita-guard-course-did-not-tell-me-what-to-do-if-someone-is-not-breathing">Capita guard: “The course did not tell me what to do if someone is not breathing”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Austerity G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Mon, 26 Jun 2017 23:08:14 +0000 John Grayson 111844 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Children’s rights and the UK General Election 2017 https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/carolyne-willow/children-s-rights-and-uk-general-election-2017 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A leading advocate calls for an Act of Parliament to enshrine children’s rights in law.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/20141104_UNICEF_7222460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="©UnicefUK/Sutton-Hibbert All rights reserved"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/20141104_UNICEF_7222460.jpg" alt="" title="©UnicefUK/Sutton-Hibbert All rights reserved" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>©UnicefUK/Sutton-Hibbert All rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>Whoever gets to form the next government has the opportunity to go down in history as the political party that introduced a law to promote and protect the rights of every child.<strong><br /> <br /> </strong>Nothing has stopped<strong> </strong>successive governments from doing this before, of course, but this is the first general election in which two of the three main political parties have pledged to enshrine in law the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Liberal Democrats first committed <a href="http://www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/ge10/man/parties/libdem_manifesto_2010.pdf">two general elections ago</a> to making this UN children’s rights treaty part of our domestic law. Now Labour has made <a href="http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/manifesto2017/leading-richer-lives">the same promise</a>. The Conservatives declared an open mind earlier this year.<br /> <br /> UK children’s rights advocates and civil servants helped draft the UN children’s rights treaty; it covers all aspects of childhood and guarantees every child a comprehensive set of economic, social, cultural and civil and political rights. <br /> <br /> Eleanor Roosevelt said human rights begin “in small places, close to home” and this is precisely where children need them most. Take children’s right to know their rights, contained in article 42 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Despite the UK ratifying the treaty in 1991, there has never been a public education campaign and it remains outside the national curriculum. </p> <p>More than&nbsp;4000 schools across the UK have teamed up with Unicef’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.unicef.org.uk/rights-respecting-schools/">Rights Respecting Schools</a>&nbsp;Award, whose aim is to create safe and inspiring places to learn, where children’s rights are respected, their talents are nurtured and they are able to thrive.&nbsp;An independent evaluation found children were more likely to report abuse after hearing about their rights. A primary school manager told researchers: <br /> <br /> <a href="https://www.brighton.ac.uk/_pdf/research/education/rrsa-uk-evaluation-full-report.pdf">“We always get some disclosures when we talk about rights at the beginning of the school year. [Children] feel empowered enough to say and we have to follow them up, they feel empowered to tell someone and that is something that probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for this.”</a></p><p> My charity’s name, Article 39, is taken from the treaty; it’s the part that guarantees children who have been abused, neglected or exploited the right to recover in environments which nurture their health, self-respect and dignity. It requires governments to do everything possible to help children rebuild their lives and self-worth after rights violations. With central government funding to local councils for child protection services <a href="https://www.childrenengland.org.uk/dont-take-child-protection-for-granted">due to be axed from 2020</a>, a legal duty around recovery from trauma could literally be life-saving. It could make all the difference to young people forced out of children’s homes and foster care years before they are psychologically and emotionally ready.<br /> <br /> You would be right to retort that children have the Human Rights Act to protect them, like everyone else. This legislation has safeguarded children in countless ways: it led to the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/337568/iro_statutory_guidance_iros_and_las_march_2010_tagged.pdf">creation of independent reviewing officers</a> to monitor and protect the rights of individual children in care and care leavers; it helped ensure <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2005/634.html">children’s wishes and feelings are properly represented</a> in court proceedings held to decide with whom they should live after their parents’ separation; and <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/882.html">it brought an end to rules</a> which allowed prison officers to use force on children to make them obey orders. The Act protected young children and their pregnant mother from being <a href="http://www.bhattmurphy.co.uk/media/files/Chen_Order_interim_relief.pdf">unlawfully restrained during deportation</a>; it precipitated a change in the law so that <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2013/982.html">17 year-olds are given the same protection in police stations as other children</a>; and forced the scrapping of discriminatory rules that <a href="https://www.cafamily.org.uk/advice-and-support/money-benefits-work-and-childcare/benefits-and-tax-credits/payment-of-disability-living-allowance-for-a-child-in-hospital/">took benefits from very poorly children hospitalised for long periods</a>. </p> <p>The Human Rights Act is vital for people of all ages and absolutely must stay. But it only protects the rights in the European Convention on Human Rights and was not drafted specifically with children in mind. The UN children’s rights treaty was tailor-made to ensure children can lead happy, safe and fulfilled lives and, as with all human rights treaties, it is ever-evolving. Since the UN adopted the treaty in 1989 it has passed three protocols giving additional protection in the areas of sexual exploitation, armed conflict and the creation of an international complaints procedure (which the UK is yet to sign up to). </p> <p>The Labour Government’s 1997 White Paper on ‘bringing rights home’ — the precursor to the Human Rights Act — said: <a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130814142233/http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/hoffice/rights/chap1.htm">“over the years [the ECHR] has become one of the premier agreements defining standards of behaviour across Europe”</a>. There is no doubting the Convention on the Rights of the Child is <em>the</em> premier children’s human rights agreement. It is the most widely ratified human rights treaty, with only one country (the USA) failing to take on its legal obligations. A Unicef <a href="https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/law_reform_crc_imp.pdf">review of 52 countries</a> published several years ago found two-thirds had made the Convention part of their domestic law. These manifesto commitments are entirely credible and based on years of evidence-gathering (see <a href="https://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentreforChildrensRights/filestore/Filetoupload,368351,en.pdf">research undertaken by Queen’s University Belfast</a>) and positive developments in Scotland and Wales.</p><div>Back in November 2009, Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Joan Walmsley introduced a <a href="http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2009-10/childrensrightshl.html">Children’s Rights Bill</a> which would have made the treaty part of our domestic law. The legislation has been in hibernation ever since, though the Peer’s attempt to introduce children’s rights duties for public authorities during the recent passage of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 had impressive backing, including from one of the lead campaigners for the Human Rights Act, Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC. Had the Bill gained government support, it would have required public authorities like schools, hospitals and children’s services to actively consider the treaty when carrying out their functions.</div> <p>The Convention gives children over 40 substantive rights; many of these relate directly to supporting parents and family life. Its four overarching principles grant children the right to enjoy all of their rights without any form of discrimination (article 2); require that children’s best interests are a primary consideration in all actions concerning them (article 3); provide that children have the right to maximum survival and development (article 6); and entitle children to have their views given due weight in all matters affecting them (article 12). If even these four provisions were legally enforceable for every child, how much easier would it be to advocate for and obtain essential services and support? </p><p>Directors of children’s services and councillors with lead responsibility for children’s services in England have been required to have <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/271429/directors_of_child_services_-_stat_guidance.pdf">regard to the treaty’s general principles</a> since 2012. More than a quarter of a century after we ratified, it’s time we moved from simply considering the treaty and gave it the full force of law.</p><p> During her latest attempt to secure children’s rights in law, Baroness Walmsley drew a parallel with the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act 2010, citing how this has made a tangible difference to many people’s lives. She concluded:<br /><a href="https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2016-11-08b.1082.2">“a culture of concern for equality issues has infiltrated public organisations. I would like to see a similar culture of concern infiltrate public organisations in relation to children’s rights.”</a></p> <p>In the same debate, Lord Hope of Craighead, a former member of the UK Supreme Court, described how judges grapple with cases concerning children’s rights by following the well-established legal principle “that when the United Kingdom has signed up to an international convention, it is to be presumed that this Parliament, when legislating, will legislate in accordance with what the convention provides”. </p> <p>Labour’s Shadow Children’s Minister Emma Lewell-Buck took up the children’s rights baton when the Children and Social Work Bill reached the Commons. The Ministerial response to her children’s rights duties’&nbsp;amendment indicated the boulder is at last nudging up the hill: Edward Timpson said in January he would <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-01-12/debates/2aea2b6d-772e-422b-aca4-19b18339bc91/ChildrenAndSocialWorkBill(Lords)(SeventhSitting)">“remain open-minded about the right way forward”.</a> </p> <p>One of the many strengths of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that it demands action on child poverty and disadvantage. It contains rights which a country as rich as ours (using GDP as the measure, we have the <a href="https://fullfact.org/economy/uk-worlds-5th-or-9th-largest-economy/">fifth wealthiest economy</a> in the world) is comfortably able to uphold – the right to a standard of living which allows children to fulfil their human potential; the right to enjoy the best of health; and the right to social security and social insurance. Remember when the Supreme Court <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/18/uk-benefit-cap-is-lawful-supreme-court-rules">found that the benefit cap was lawful, but it breached the UN children’s rights treaty</a>? Had the Convention been enshrined in UK law, this breach would have also been unlawful and ministers would have been compelled to revisit the policy. </p> <p>We shouldn’t be fixated on the courtroom, however. The impact of the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act extend far beyond litigation, which takes us back to those small places, close to home. The core, universal obligation is that we respect and take care of each other in times of need. That we reach out on the basis of shared humanity and social justice, not charity or paternalism. Children are respected and gain the help they need &nbsp;because they are human beings with equal worth to adults, but also because they are precious. Additional human rights for children were borne out of their particular needs and vulnerabilities; their lack of status and powerlessness at an individual and structural level; and in recognition of the magnificent human potential existing in that space we call childhood.</p><p> Children feeling empowered, thriving, being listened to and accorded their due dignity wherever they happen to live — this is what making the Convention on the Rights of the Child part of UK law could achieve over time. As we continue to come to terms with the horrific scale and impact of child abuse, past and present, what greater message could we give to children about their integrity and worth than by consulting them and then passing an Act of Parliament devoted to protecting their rights?&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/england-s-bonfire-of-children-s-rights">England’s bonfire of children’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/how-many-children-are-sexually-abused-in-prison">How many children are sexually abused in prison?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/when-children-s-home-is-one-more-stop-on-road-to-prison">When a children’s home is one more stop on the road to prison </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/safe-place-for-children-g4s-pays-for-independent-report-on-r">A safe place for children? G4S pays for “independent” report on Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/sex-abusers-guarding-britain-s-most-vulnerable-children">The sex abusers guarding Britain’s most vulnerable children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/mothers-and-sons-on-children-who-have-died-in-uk-prisons">Mothers and sons. On children who have died in UK prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/prison-treacherous-place-for-child">Prison, a treacherous place for a child</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/children-suffer-racist-abuse-and-degrading-treatment-by-guards-high-on-d">Children suffer racist abuse and ‘degrading treatment’ by guards high on drugs at G4S Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/many-thousands-of-children-stripped-naked-in-custody-ignites-memories-of">Many thousands of children stripped naked in custody. Ignites memories of being raped</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-l">Child was held for a staggering 151 days in men’s immigration lockup Morton Hall in Lincolnshire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/england-s-bonfire-of-children-s-rights">England’s bonfire of children’s rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Shine A Light Carolyne Willow Tue, 06 Jun 2017 23:08:30 +0000 Carolyne Willow 111432 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘If I’d known what to ask for, I wouldn’t have gone hungry’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When Theresa May’s&nbsp;Britain grants asylum, a brutal 28 day countdown starts.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><strong><strong><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light</a>&nbsp;reports from the frontline of Britain</strong><span>’</span><span>s immigration and asylum system. See also&nbsp;</span></strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/usman-sheikh/home-office-cost-of-immigration-visas">Money talks</a><span>&nbsp;and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/when-you-ve-got-three-children-being-left-without-their-dad-">Theresa May</a></span><span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/when-you-ve-got-three-children-being-left-without-their-dad-">’s tough line on immigration punishes British children.</a></span></strong></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_3.jpg" alt="lead Illustration showing a crowd of men, women and children. Some have placards and pieces of paper." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All illustrations by Carrie Mackinnon. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><span>“That period when you’re waiting for your papers, when you don’t know what’s going to happen, it takes a bit of your life away,” says Kia, a refugee from Uganda, as we chat on the phone.</span></strong></p> <p>Kia applied for asylum in June 2012. She finds it difficult to talk about what she describes as a ‘terrible time’, following the trauma of fleeing her country in the first place. “I am not the type of person who’s going to cry out for help,” Kia tells me. “I should have.”</p> <p>I found Kia through <a href="http://baobabwomensproject.wixsite.com/waah">Baobab</a>, a busy drop-in for undocumented, asylum seeking and refugee women in south Birmingham, four miles from the city centre.</p><p>***</p> <p>Last year, almost 40,000 people sought asylum in Britain (39,389 to be precise). The government aims to decide cases within six months. During the wait, asylum seekers can live in asylum housing or with friends or family, and they get £36.95 a week.</p> <p>If asylum is refused, they can appeal this decision in court until the appeal process has been ‘exhausted’ or they can submit a new claim for asylum. For Kia and many others this process may take months or years.</p> <p>If asylum is granted, a brutal countdown starts. People have 28 days before payments stop and they are moved out of their homes. The UK Home Office calls it the “move on” period.</p> <p>Here’s what new refugees have to accomplish:</p> <ul><li>• Read and understand a five-page Discontinuation of Asylum Support letter that is sent with a wad of other official letters in a large, brown-paper envelope.</li><li>• Chase up their Biometric Residence Card — that’s compulsory identification for every new refugee living in the UK.</li><li>• Get a National Insurance number.</li><li>• Make a decision about where to live in the UK.</li></ul><p>That’s only part of it. There’s:</p><ul><li>• Obtain proof of address and an identity card to open a bank account.</li><li>• Apply for benefits.</li><li>• Apply for social housing if it’s an option.</li><li>Or&nbsp;</li><li>• &nbsp;find a private landlord willing to take on a refugee, get hold of references, money for a deposit and the first month’s rent.</li><li>•&nbsp; Find a computer with wifi and a printer to apply for an integration loan.</li><li>•&nbsp; Travel to new accommodation with belongings.</li></ul> <p>Imagine doing all that in a foreign language. Without money. With no support network. Pregnant. With small children. A disability. Trauma. Mental health difficulties. Old age. Age-disputed.</p> <p>Fail the 28 day challenge and what happens next?</p> <p>“By the time your papers come through, if they come through, your brain is not functioning properly”, Kia explains softly.</p> <p>“That’s when you need help to come to you. But I couldn’t look for help, I didn’t trust even my own words. I think that’s what they call losing your confidence.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/3mumwithkids.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/3mumwithkids.jpg" alt="Illustration of mother with baby and two children. She is holding two sheets of paper in out stretched hands." title="" width="460" height="672" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <h2>“I can’t complain”</h2> <p>By the time Kia got refugee status in March 2016, she was severely depressed.</p> <p>She’d been in Britain for almost four years applying for asylum. Her first application was refused and she spent time in a detention centre before her appeal was successful.</p> <p>On the day Kia’s 28 day ‘move-on’ period was up, an employee from private housing contractor G4S came to her shared house to get her key.</p> <p>Her last Home Office payment of £10 arrived ten days before her financial support was stopped. When she packed her suitcase and walked to the nearest bus stop on 23 March, Kia had just £6 in her purse. She was still waiting for her National Insurance number and hadn’t applied for benefits.</p> <p>Kia counted out £4 for a daysaver and took a bus to Birmingham’s Neighbourhood Office to ask for help.</p> <p>She arrived at 9.30am when the office doors opened. The housing officer couldn’t see her right away so Kia took her suitcase and sat in the waiting room. There were three other people there, says Kia, also waiting to be allocated a place to live. Lunchtime came and went. Too scared to use her last £2, Kia didn’t eat or drink anything all day.</p> <p>More than eight hours later, the housing officer finally saw her. He asked her questions about her health then told her there was no accommodation available. He scribbled down an address for a B&amp;B and told Kia to go there.</p> <p>“I’m in tears, it’s late, it’s wet and freezing cold. I don’t know where I’m going,” Kia recalls.</p> <p>She got the bus as far as she could and her friend booked her a taxi for the last leg of her journey.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Too scared to use her last £2, Kia didn’t eat or drink anything all day</p> <p>When she arrived at the run-down B&amp;B, located near a motorway, Kia gave the receptionist a letter that the housing officer had handed her. She had a shower but nothing to eat.</p> <p>“It was a nice room. I can’t complain,” she says.</p> <p>Every morning there was cornflakes and juice.</p> <p>Then, nothing.</p> <p>In three weeks, Kia ate three times, when a friend came to visit and brought food.</p> <p>“I’m a bit to blame because I should have acted,” Kia sighs. “But when you can’t express yourself, you can’t explain what you’re going through. I should have started chasing this Job Seekers Allowance thing during those 28 days.</p> <p>“If I had known what to do, what to ask for, I wouldn’t have gone hungry.”</p> <h2>Deterioration in mental health</h2> <p>Kia’s experience isn’t unusual. In April 2015, in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, researchers asked women refugees about what happened to them during the move-on period. <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/13womanandcalendar.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/13womanandcalendar.jpg" alt="Illustration of a woman holding a calendar. " title="" width="240" height="427" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>One woman applied for Job Seekers Allowance on the day her asylum support was terminated. She had accommodation but no money for three weeks. She told the Women in Exile project researchers that she wished the Home Office would take back her papers so she could stay as an asylum seeker.</p> <p>Another woman self-harmed and was hospitalized after being housed far away from her support network. Their stories appeared in <a href="https://stillhumanstillhere.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/28-day-move-on-period-briefing-final.pdf">Still Human Still Here</a>’s report in May 2016.</p> <p>The researchers wrote: “Women who access the project’s mental health services and are granted refugee status frequently experience a deterioration in their mental health as a direct result of the pressure caused by having to transit between support systems within the 28-day deadline.”</p> <p>The government set the 28-day period in 2002. But all the available evidence suggests it should be much longer. That’s research evidence from the <a href="https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0003/1769/28_days_later.pdf">Refugee Council</a>, the <a href="http://www.redcross.org.uk/~/media/BritishRedCross/Documents/About%20us/Research%20reports%20by%20advocacy%20dept/Move%20on%20period%20report.pdf">Red Cross</a>, and, most <a href="https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0004/0316/APPG_on_Refugees_-_Refugees_Welcome_report.pdf">recently</a>, by the all-party parliamentary group on refugees. They suggest the period should be at least 40 days, preferably 50.</p> <p>I asked the Home Office if they had any plans to change the deadline.</p> <p>A spokesperson said: “There is no change to this time period and it is still under review.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Another woman self-harmed and was hospitalized after being housed far away from her support network.&nbsp;</p> <h2>What help is there?</h2> <p>In 2008, a government-funded scheme called the Refugee Integration and Employment Service gave new refugees support for 12 months to get welfare benefits, find housing and start education or employment.</p> <p>But Theresa May, then the Conservative Home Secretary, took an axe to the Border Agency’s budget and that support disappeared in 2011.</p> <p>What replaced it?</p> <p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/PeopletoPeopleSolidarityActioninUK/?ref=br_rs">UK Refugee Welcome – People to People Solidarity</a> is a network on Facebook that connects volunteers around the country with asylum seekers and refugees who need practical help or advice.</p> <p>The Red Cross <a href="http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Refugee-support">support </a>around 6,000 refugees and asylum seekers each year who are destitute — one in five of whom have refugee status — by giving them food, clothes, small amounts of money and advice.</p> <p><a href="http://www.refugeesathome.org/">Refugees at Home</a> is a charity that connects people who have a spare room with refugees who need one.</p> <p>The group formed in February 2016 because of the “28-day trap and other blackspots for those newly granted protection”, says co-organizer Rachel Mantell. In little over a year, the team have supported more than 300 people and facilitated a total of 19,000 nights of hosting.</p> <p>Volunteers, groups and stretched refugee organisations do what they can. It’s not enough.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/14calendardetail.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/14calendardetail.jpg" alt="Illustration of a woman holding a calendar and pointing at a date. " title="" width="460" height="499" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <h2>A two-tier system</h2> <p>Things are somewhat better for the 5,706 Syrian refugees who have arrived in the UK so far on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement <a href="https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/The-Syrian-Vulnerable-Persons-Resettlement-programme.pdf">Programme</a>. These refugees get dedicated caseworkers to help them adjust to their new lives.</p> <p>I asked the Home Office if they have plans to restart the integration programme for refugees not on the resettlement scheme.</p> <p>The Home Office replied: “Asylum seekers who are granted refugee or other status in the UK can apply for integration loans. These can be used, for example, to pay a rent deposit, for essential domestic items or for work equipment or training.”</p> <p>Oh yes, the integration loan of between £100 and £500, that people are told about in the weighty correspondence they get from the Home Office, along with their Discontinuation of Asylum Support letter and information sheets on opening a basic bank account, applying for benefits, travel documents, healthcare and leave to remain.</p><p>When they apply for a loan applicants must submit their Biometric Residence Permit card, just when they need proof of identity the most.</p> <h2>Theresa May’s hostile environment</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/12womansitting.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/12womansitting.jpg" alt="Illustration of a woman sitting on the floor surrounded by paper." title="" width="460" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Parvin and Ali, an Iranian couple, were granted refugee status in November 2016. Unlike Kia, they received their papers just seven months after arriving in the UK. They were living in a small town near Leeds and were welcomed into their local church. But they missed their community.</p> <p>Renting in London is a nightmare for anyone who’s not rich or already living there for years but, after 28 days of indecision, Parvin and Ali moved there to be close to Iranian friends. They stayed in their friends’ small flat for a month before they found somewhere of their own.</p> <p>Parvin proudly shows me around their small apartment above a takeaway. They have no chairs, no table, no bed. They sleep and eat on the floor.</p> <p>Ali tells me how difficult it was to find. “First we need to speak English and have a bank account that is at least six months old, with a good statement.”</p> <p>The landlord didn’t accept the couple’s documents so the tenancy is in their friend’s name — and only because she had rented a house from this particular landlord before. She also lent them the money for their deposit.</p> <p>Kia had no-one to ask.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">They have no chairs, no table, no bed. They sleep and eat on the floor.</p> <p>Why do refugees find it so difficult to rent privately? Rachel blames the government’s ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/10/immigration-bill-theresa-may-hostile-environment">hostile environment’</a> policy, devised while Theresa May was Home Secretary and enshrined in law in the <a href="https://rightsinfo.org/immigration-act-2016-plain-english/"><em>Immigration Act 2016</em></a><em>.</em></p> <p>It requires private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. Many landlords now refuse to rent to refugees because of the risk of prosecution and because “the rhetoric around refugees is so negative”, Rachel explains.</p> <p>“If we didn’t have any friends, what should we do?” asks Ali.</p> <h2>A place to call home</h2> <p>After three weeks in the B&amp;B, Kia was moved to a hotel closer to the city centre last April and shortly after that, to a hostel where she was given a support worker.</p> <p>Thanks to a pre-paid card given to her after arriving at the hostel, she was able to buy food and other basics again. Kia finally received her National Insurance Number in June and her first benefit payment in July – five months after her asylum support stopped.</p> <p>She stayed in the hostel for nine months while bidding weekly on council accommodation, which was a painful process.</p> <p>“They turned down my first application and I went to Sarah [Kia’s advocate with Baobab drop-in] and told her. The council said they were going to review my case. They asked me so many questions, everything about my medication. Then they dug into my asylum case – my case was private. This was very annoying, but I didn’t have a choice.”</p> <p>Eventually, a council housing officer secured Kia privately rented accommodation.</p> <p>Kia moved into an apartment earlier this year, on 8 February. Almost eleven months after her claim for asylum was accepted.&nbsp;</p> <p>Kia, Parvin and Ali are still moving on, months after the 28-day deadline.</p> <p>“From a detention centre, behind locked doors, to now, finally, a place that I call home”.</p><p><span>*The names of refugees interviewed have been changed.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>Illustrations by <a href="mailto:cmackinnon@hotmail.com">Carrie Mackinnon</a>. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/ronagh-craddock/asylum-seekers-are-left-destitute-and-homeless-due-to-lack-of-legal-aid">Asylum seekers are left destitute and homeless due to a lack of legal aid </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">Behave or get deported, says G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Lydia Noon Sat, 03 Jun 2017 10:00:00 +0000 Lydia Noon 111212 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong><strong><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light"><strong>Shine A Light</strong></a><strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></strong><strong>reports from the frontline of Britain</strong></strong><strong>’s immigration and asylum system. See also <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/usman-sheikh/home-office-cost-of-immigration-visas">Money talks</a> and&nbsp;</strong></strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;"><strong>‘</strong></span><strong><strong>If I’d known what to ask for I wouldn’t have gone hungry</strong></strong><span style="font-weight: bold;">’</span></a><span style="font-weight: bold;">.</span></p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="shine a light migration series"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_1.jpg" alt="Illustration showing a crowd of men, women and children. Some have placards and pieces of paper." title="shine a light migration series" width="460" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All illustrations by Carrie Mackinnon. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Tom&nbsp;was about to leave for school when they&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">came.&nbsp;</span></strong></p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">He was putting his shoes on by the front door of the small flat he shares with his mum, dad and two younger brothers. He heard a loud thud, something heavy hitting the front door. Then a bang. Another bang. The noise hurt his ears. In their bedroom, Tom’s mum and dad were confused. </span><i>Who was trying to break down their door? </i><span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> Amid the noise, shouting: “Immigration and police! Immigration! Police!” </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Tom’s mum Leah ran toward the door, shouting: “Stop, stop, I’ll just open the door.” The front door flew off its hinges. Half a dozen officers in uniform charged into the house, into the kitchen, bathroom and main bedroom. They’d come for Michael. As they led him away, neighbours on the estate stood watching.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Inside the house, some officers stayed to interrogate<strong> </strong>Leah. <i>Who lives here? What about the children? </i>Leah was shaking. Tom, 12, and his younger brothers, Zackey, aged four and Jermaine, 10, were terrified. <span style="color: red;">&nbsp;</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">A female officer noticed the children. Her manner softened. She tried to answer Leah’s questions. </span><span style="color: black; mso-themecolor: text1;">She said </span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael was on that morning’s list of people being rounded up for deportation.</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">There had been no warning, Michael was in the ‘system’, but no one told them this could happen. The officers hadn’t even rung the doorbell.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael had an ongoing case with the Home Office, Leah said, he was challenging his removal from the country. The officer replied, </span><i>No, he hasn’t got anything lodged with the Home Office. That’s why we’ve come to get him. </i><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">“That’s not true,” said Leah. “I know that’s not true.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Well, if what you say is correct then it’s not a problem, he can sort it out. </span></i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">But still they took him away. Later he would call her from an immigration lockup near Gatwick Airport. It’s called </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-lockup-mor/feed"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Brook House</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">. Two people recently died there.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">It was Thursday, Leah’s day off. From now on Leah would spend her Thursdays fighting to stop the Home Office forcing Michael onto a plane to a Caribbean island, 4,000 miles away from his family.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">She would learn fast.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span class="mag-quote-center" style="font-family: Helvetica, Arial, 'Liberation Sans', FreeSans, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Why is he still here? Why doesn’t he just go? The children will be fine without him</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><br />She would learn to explain things she’d never had to put into words before, not to strangers anyway. That her children needed their dad, that she and Michael had a real relationship, that it just wasn’t fair.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">But each time, Michael’s Home Office caseworker would say: </span><i>Why is he still here? Why doesn’t he just go? The children will be fine without him.</i></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">All that would come later. For now, the day of the raid, Thursday 26th January, a friend called round and took the bewildered children to school. Leah waited alone for the council to send someone to fix the door.</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt; text-align: left;">&nbsp;</span></p><hr />&nbsp;<p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael&nbsp;had arrived in the UK in 2001 aged 19, scared and shaken after a run in with local gangsters back home, a small town in the West Indies.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">He had witnessed a murder and thwarted a drug deal, four local gang members came looking for him. </span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">They shot him in the back and carried him off to a warehouse. He was beaten, stabbed, burned with cigarettes, still bears the scars. They demanded his parents pay a ransom. </span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">When they paid part of it Michael was dumped on the streets. He spent three days in hospital, then local police advised him to leave the country for his own safety.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael chose the UK where his nan and grandad lived. For a few years, he lived with them in the north of England</span><strong> </strong><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">then moved down to London with his cousin. Michael was a car fanatic: “Fixing, driving, mechanics, electronics.”&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">When he first arrived, he applied for college but couldn’t afford the fees. He was granted leave to remain and was permitted to work but wasn’t entitled to subsidised or free education. Michael began working at a garage in South London and became a father to two children (now young teens —&nbsp;this was before he settled down with Leah). Eventually he set up his own garage. “Things were good,” he said.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Then came 2008: the economy crashed, banks collapsed and Michael’s garage struggled. “Everything went wrong,” he said.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael made some bad decisions. He borrowed money from a murky source — a little under £10,000 — which turned out to be drug money. He was convicted of money laundering. The judge, making an example of him, sentenced him to five years in prison.</span></p><p style="text-align: left;" class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">He served his time and was released in 2011. Michael’s probation report described him as low risk all round: low risk to the public and low risk of reoffending. He spent the last five months of his sentence at an open prison in Kent, free to spend away days with his family.</span></p><p style="text-align: left;" class="MsoNormal"><span class="image-left" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/1family_1.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/1family_1.jpeg" alt="Illustration of a man with his arms around his wife. She is holding a baby. Two small children hold their hands." title="" width="460" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>On release Michael set about trying to rebuild his life. His garage had long since collapsed, but he found work as a parts technician. “It was good and steady work,” he said. Leah gave birth to Zackey, and Michael stayed out of trouble. In 2014, the family planned a holiday and Michael applied to renew his passport. Things were good.&nbsp;</span></span></p><p style="text-align: center;" class="MsoNormal"><span class="image-left" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">***</span></span></p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">But while Michael was moving on with his life, the political rhetoric against migrants was becoming increasingly hostile.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">The tabloids have had a longstanding habit of using the terms “refugee” and “asylum seeker” as terms of abuse.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“Blunkett ‘right to lock up refugees’” shouted one Daily Mail </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: &amp;amp;amp; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-bidi;"><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-79512/Blunkett-right-lock-refugees.html"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">headline</span></a></span><span class="MsoHyperlink"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> in 2001, referring to the hardline Labour Home secretary David Blunkett.&nbsp;</span></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“Asylum fraud chaos” and “SCANDAL AS ASYLUM SEEKERS GO ON RUN” yelled the Daily Express in 2003.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Antipathy turned toward foreign national offenders in 2006 when then Home Secretary Charles Clarke&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">admitted that 1,013 migrants had been released without being considered for deportation</span><i>. </i><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">At the time, the law required that foreign offenders sentenced to 12 months or more in prison be considered for removal. </span><span style="color: black; mso-themecolor: text1;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">The Home Office was attacked by the </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmpubacc/788/788.pdf"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Public Accounts Committee</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> and in the Commons. Public pressure mounted. “Home Office blunders left foreign rapists in UK” shouted the </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-384183/Home-Office-blunders-left-foreign-rapists-UK.html"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Daily Mail. </span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">And “</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-385683/Killers-human-rights-placed-public-safety.html"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Killer’s human rights placed above public safety</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">”. In response&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Prime Minister Tony Blair sacked Charles Clarke, and replaced him with hardliner John Reid who promised a stricter regime at the Home Office. He wanted deportation to be automatic for any foreign nationals who received “significant” jail sentences. An intention subsequently embodied in the UK Borders Act 2007, which resulted in automatic deportation, irrespective of personal circumstances, for those imprisoned for 12 months or more.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Academic and migration expert Luke de Noronha has traced a line from this period, when foreign national offenders first entered the public consciousness as figures of hate and fear, to now. He writes: “Today, conversations about immigration control rarely proceed without reference to these unequivocal ‘baddies’. Their notoriety might appear self-explanatory: they are migrants </span><i>and</i><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"> criminals, and most British people don’t like either.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><br /></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class="mag-quote-center" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Tony Blair sacked Charles Clarke, and replaced him with hardliner John Reid who promised a stricter regime at the Home Office</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Initially, none of this impacted on Michael. He served his sentence, returned to his family and heard nothing from the Home Office. But in 2013 the Coalition government stepped things up a gear up with a plan to dramatically increase the number of foreign prisoners it deported. The plan covered three departments, several ministers and would entail a “tougher environment” for migrants with convictions.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/15alltogether.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/15alltogether.jpg" alt="Illustration of group of men, women and children holding papers." title="" width="460" height="331" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">It was part of the then Home Secretary Theresa May’s desire to create a&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/10/immigration-bill-theresa-may-hostile-environment">hostile environment</a></span></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">”&nbsp;for migrants and refused asylum seekers. More Home Office case workers were hired to systematically seek out foreign national offenders and deport them. The net widened to include people who had served sentences of less than 12 months.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">This “hostile environment” was given legal effect by the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016, which turn doctors, </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/right-to-rent-checks-introduced-for-landlords-in-england"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">landlords</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> and bank managers&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">into border guards; obliging them to check a person’s migration status and refuse to treat them, rent to them or allow them to open a bank account if they lack the right papers.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Those professionals who refuse or fail to carry out these checks face criminal and civil sanctions.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Operation Nexus was one another feature on the landscape of the “hostile environment”. Nexus purports to target serious, dangerous criminals for deportation, Home Office and police forces across the country share information to catch these </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/operation-nexus-high-harm"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“high-harm”</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> individuals.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">A policy setting out to achieve these objectives might appear uncontroversial. But the reality is that Operaton Nexus scoops up anyone who has had contact with state authorities, whether through stop and search,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2016/04/caught-nexus-dragnet/" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">activism</a>,&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">or an old or non-violent conviction.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">While <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13621025.2017.1328486">leading research at the University of Bristol</a> on the family lives of men facing deportation from the UK, academic Melanie Griffiths witnessed the reality of Nexus at immigration tribunal hearings.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">“The rhetoric is usually about&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">‘high harm</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">’ individuals, with a lot of reference to&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">‘gangs</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">’, but actually in my experience the people that get caught up are often only involved in very, very low criminality, if at all,</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">” she says.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">“And yet aged 18 they are told that they are being sent to Somalia, say, by themselves, even though they haven't seen the country since they were three. Such cases seem like an over the top response to what is basically a teenage kid that the police doesn</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">’t like very much.</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/4mates_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/4mates_2.jpg" alt="Illustration of three boys with their arms on each others shoulders, talking." title="" width="460" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Even those acquitted of criminal charges can be deported. </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/news/2017/mar/05/rough-sleeper-immigration-raids-charity-collaboration-st-mungos-thames-reach"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Rough sleepers on the street are rounded up by charities and police officers.</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> If they’re foreign, they’re handed over to immigration officials. Some are deported, others are locked up in immigration detention, while the Home Office builds a case against them. Cuts to legal aid for immigration cases, introduced by the Coalition Government in 2013, make it difficult to challenge detention and impending removal.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;">To effect the removal of those rounded up as part of Operation Nexus, <a href="https://corporatewatch.org/news/2017/jan/06/deportation-charter-flights-collective-expulsion-2017"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">mass charter flights</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> carrying people to the Middle East and Africa are booked in advance, and immigration officers are under pressure to fill them. The flights are kept secret with people taken late at night or in the early hours of the morning, and deported before they can challenge the state’s case against them. That this can happen is a consequence of changes to the Immigration Rules&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">introduced by Theresa May during her tenure as Home Secretary, meaning some people </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.freemovement.org.uk/remove-first-appeal-later-provisions-force-today-new-guidance-published/"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">could appeal their case only after deportation.</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> In reality few are able to exercise this right once they are outside of the UK.<span class="MsoHyperlink"><span style="text-decoration: none; text-underline: none;">&nbsp;</span></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span class="MsoHyperlink"><span class="mag-quote-center">Yet aged 18 they are told they are being sent to Somalia, even though they haven't seen the country since they were three. Such cases seem like an over the top response to what is basically a teenage kid that the police doesn't like very much&nbsp;</span></span></span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">In 2014, as the government’s plans unfolded, Michael and Leah happily planned a holiday. They would take the children to Euro Disney. Michael applied to renew his passport.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">That same year, he was stopped and search by the police —&nbsp;a routine occurrence for many black men in London. On two occasions, as the officers took his details they said: </span><i>Immigration has got a serious interest in you.</i></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/2familyabsent.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/2familyabsent.jpg" alt="Illustration of a man holding the shadow of his wife and three children." title="" width="240" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael went to see a solicitor. “Why would immigration be interested in me?” He thought it might be to do with the passport, but his solicitor said: </span><i>Well, you have a criminal conviction. </i><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Still, Michael had been clean since his release, he wasn’t worried.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Then came a letter from the Home Office. It ordered him to “stop working, stop using the NHS” and to sign on once a week at a Home Office immigration reporting centre in London Bridge.&nbsp;</span></p><div><div style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael re-applied for leave to remain in the country. Early in 2015 his application was refused. The Home Office increased his reporting requirements to twice a week, this time in Croydon. Again, he was told not to work but this time his driving license was taken away as well. Michael tried to keep the family together, applying for different types of British residency as a carer for his children. Both applications were refused.</span></div><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">With Michael unable to work Leah had to rely on working tax credits to boost her income. Michael for his part loved the extra time with his three boys. He took them to school, helped them with homework. But he needed to be earning and found himself increasingly depressed unable to do so; a state of mind compounded by the uncertainty of his situation.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">This uncertainty and stress lasted nearly two years before the raid in January 2017 and Michael’s subsequent detention. Looking back, Michael says: “If I was the person who they made me out to be, I would have turned to crime. I can’t work, I can’t look after my family. What do you want me to do?” </span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">For the children, their lives are divided into the time before and after the raid. Before the immigration raid they had their dad, he took them to school, played football with them. after the raid, he wasn’t in their lives any more. Not like before.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Every Sunday their mum drove them for nearly two hours through central London beyond the M25 to the place that looked like a prison. Brook House. They had to go through secuirty, their bags searched. They would meet him in the visitor</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">’s room. He could get up to say hello, but that was it. Physical contact, such as hugs, were prohibited.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Week after week, Michael watched his children change and worried about the effect his situation was having on them. “Jermaine is worried. Zackey is playing up. His mum is at work and when I was there we were close. Now I’m not there. Tom don’t show any emotion, he won’t tell you what he is thinking.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Michael appealed against the decision to removed him from the UK arguing that removal would result in a breach of his<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/news/blog/article-8-right-respect-private-and-family-life"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">article 8 right to a family life. </span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">He wanted to stay in the UK to be a father to his five children in the UK and a partner to Leah. </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Using her Thursdays off, Leah worked on gathering evidence for Michael’s case. There were letters from the children’s teachers, the local dentist, her own boss and another school mum to testify that Michael was part of their lives. </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sadfacedrawing_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sadfacedrawing_0.jpg" alt="Child's drawing of a sad face with caption, please mend our family." title="" width="460" height="449" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A child’s plea: Jermaine’s drawing </span></span></span>The Home Office response was that Leah and her children would manage fine without Michael.</span><br /></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“Kids need their dad,” Leah said. “You hear sometimes the government placing emphasis on the reason that things are going wrong is single parent families and dads not looking after their children. All that sort of stuff. But, yet they are causing that to happen. I don’t understand.”</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Leah was mostly worried about Tom. They live in an area where boys could get into trouble with gangs. “It’s quite a lot easier to get involved in that without his dad around,<span style="font-size: 13px;">”</span>&nbsp;she said.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">“</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Growing up in London. You just hear about all these stabbings.</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><br />&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class="mag-quote-center" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">The children wanted to help with the case. Tom tried start a gov.uk petition to call on the government to “stop deporting dads”. A few of his mates were going to sign it. It was rejected.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Leah went to see a social worker to get evidence to support their case. The social worker said it might be Zackey she had to watch: “You are more worried about the older boys, but they’ve had their dad with them to this stage. By the time the little one gets to their age, he wouldn’t have had his dad around for much longer.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">The children wanted to help with the case. Tom tried start a gov.uk petition to call on the government to “stop deporting dads”. A few of his mates were going to sign it. It was rejected. They said Michael’s case was still ongoing, so the petition wasn’t valid. </span><span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span></p><div><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Jermaine,10, handwrote a letter to one of the judges hearing Michael’s case while he was detained:</span></div><div style="text-align: left;"></div><div style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/lettertojudge_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/lettertojudge_2.jpg" alt="Handwritten letter. Child's handwriting." title="" width="240" height="238" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></i></span></div><div style="text-align: left;"></div><div style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Dear Judge,</span></i></span></div><div style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></i></span><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">I would like you to please bring our dad home because he is a very big part of our family. He has been doing a lot for us, since our mum has been working, and without him there are a lot of things changing for us. He cannot take me or my brothers to our clubs anymore, and our mum has to cut back on working hours to do so. He isn’t here to help me with our homework and me and my brother can’t watch movies with him anymore either. May I ask how you would feel if you could not do any fun things with your father as a child. And so I am asking you to please bring our father home.</span></i></div><div style="text-align: left;"><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></i><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Yours faithfully,&nbsp;</span></i><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">[Jermaine*] (middle son of [Michael])</span></i></div><p style="text-align: left;" class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><br /></span></p><div style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Michael a</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">pplied f</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">or bail in a bid to stay with his family while his appeal was considered. The&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">b</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">ail heari</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">ng, on&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">February 28th, was held&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">at a tribunal court in London, Michael appeared via video link&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">and Leah was there in person. T</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">her</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">e’s no le</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">gal aid for immigration bail hearings so they hired a private solicitor, borrowing and using their savings. Before the hearing, they worried that Michael would be denied bail and remain in detention until he won his appeal. What happened was worse. There was no point in granting bail, the Home Office lawyer said at the hearing, because Michael was booked on a charter flight for 8th March. Eight days away.</span></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;" class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">***</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Leah sprang into action straight after the hearing. She contacted her MP and their solicitor lodged a judicial review of the decision to place Michael on the charter flight. They didn’t get a response from the Home Office. Leah panicked. The charter flight to Jamaica was due to leave at 6am on 8th March. Michael prayed. When he called his mother to tell her, she cried. She lives in America now, most of his family long since emigrated.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Then, the day before the flight, Michael’s solicitor told him his ticket had been cancelled.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">That night Michael went to bed, naked under the covers. “Brook House is hot.” At around 10pm there was a knock at the door and two guards came in.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">You’re on a flight, </span></i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">one said. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“No, I’ve got this JR, my ticket’s cancelled,” Michael replied. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">OK, we’ll go check. </span></i></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">They returned a few minutes later with more guards. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">You are on the reserve list. </span></i></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Michael was confused. The guards swooped to restrain him. He yelled. They bent his wrist and arm, one guard had his hands around Michael’s neck. Michael, still naked, struggled and tried to free himself. One of the guards squeezed his testicles. He gave up and&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">went limp.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/7visadetail.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/7visadetail.jpg" alt="Illustration showing someone holding an open notebook and pointed at the page." title="" width="240" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal">A guard pulled boxers onto him,<span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;then they strapped a restraint belt around his waist and strapped his arms. Another set of guards took him and drove him to the airport.</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Leah heard what happened by text, from Michael’s roommate. “That’s it, he is actually going,” she said. “It’s final. I just thought there’s no chance of him coming back really. They say it’s an out of country appeal but I don’t know how many people have managed to appeal and come back. I can imagine it’s very minimal. It is far… It’s not like we can afford to just go there. Especially with three children.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“To the Home Office it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. It doesn’t really affect them. But it’s a big thing… when you’ve got three children being left without a dad. It’s quite major. I now have to bring them up on my own.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><br /></span></p><h2><hr /></h2><h2><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt; font-weight: bold;">A second chance?</span></h2><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Leah was still crying when Michael called her from the security guard’s van to say they weren’t taking him after all. Last minute cancellations are common. Michael was certain that the guards knew before they drove him to the airport that he wasn’t on the flight, but they kept him in the van all night anyway.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">The guards who drove Michael to the airport are employed by Tascor, a security company to whom the work of ‘escorting’ people from detention to the airport has been outsourced.</span></p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/5mateabsent.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/5mateabsent.jpg" alt="Illustration of a young man walking alone." title="" width="240" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael spent the night in the van thinking about the past. “I was not a criminal really. I just got caught up. It was a mistake that I’m paying for. That was when I was 25. I’m going to be 35. I’m not the same person.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Two days later the Home Office requested issued further removal directions, beginning the process again. And again, Michael tried to appeal. “It all seemed to run smoothly,” said Leah. “The judge was on our side.</span><span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">The Home Office didn’t put up too much of an argument. To me and the solicitor it went quite well.” But the judge reserved his decision: taking time to consider the case before giving his judgment.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Following the appeal hearing Michael applied for bail again but his application was refused. It was the judge dealing with Michael’s bail application who dropped the bombshell that his appeal had been refused. That was the first Leah and Michael had heard of it. There’d been no letter. “It seemed to go so well,” said Leah. “I don’t understand what could have gone wrong.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">A week later, on the 9th May, Michael was deported.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/9dancerabsent_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/9dancerabsent_2.jpg" alt="Illustration of a woman dancing alone." title="" width="240" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Seated on the plane Michael still believed a miracle might save him. “He’s always hopeful,” said Leah.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">“But I don’t see how.” </span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><div><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Twice that day he spoke to me by phone, first as he was being driven to the airport. His voice trembled. He sounded scared to me. Then, when he was on the plane, sitting between two guards, I called him again. “I’m fearful for my life,” he said. “I wonder what’s going to happen to my kids.” Then the line went dead.&nbsp;</span></div><div><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><br /></span></div><div></div><div></div><div><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">At the time of writing, Tom, Jermaine and Zackey do not know that their father has been deported. Tom and Jermaine have exams coming up and it is Jermaine’s birthday Thursday. Leah cannot face telling them. Not yet.&nbsp;</span></div><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">For her part, Leah has had little time to grieve. And acceptance will be a long time coming “If he was born in this country he would have just served his time and then been allowed to get on and bring up his kids like he is supposed to do. But just because he wasn’t born here, not only him, but all his children have to now be punished for the rest of their lives. It just sounds ridiculous. I don’t understand it.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><i>*Michael, Leah and their children</i>’<i>s names have been</i></span><i style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;changed to protect identities. &nbsp;</i><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></p><hr /><p>Illustrations by&nbsp;<a href="mailto:cmackinnon@hotmail.com">Carrie Mackinnon</a>. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</p><p>This piece was funded by Shine A Light and Red Pepper<span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">’</span>s Black Journalism Fund.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/black journalism fund logo .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/black journalism fund logo .jpg" alt="Black journalism fund logo" title="" width="240" height="68" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/nadia-graham/5-reasons-why-we-stopped-ukgov-deportation-flight-to-nigeria-la">5 reasons why we stopped a UKgov deportation flight to Nigeria last night </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-l">Child was held for a staggering 151 days in men’s immigration lockup Morton Hall in Lincolnshire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/people-come-in-here-normal-but-they-get-ill-protesting-against-">‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jenny-bourne/seeds-of-post-brexit-racial-violence-lie-in-government-policy">The seeds of post-Brexit racial violence lie in government policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/simon-parker/theresa-may-this-is-not-crisis-of-migration-but-crisis-of-inhum">Theresa May, this is not a ‘crisis of migration’, but a crisis of inhumanity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jama">Do your parenting by Skype, UK tells fathers being deported to Jamaica</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Sat, 03 Jun 2017 10:00:00 +0000 Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi 111189 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Money talks: Meet three people who want to live in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/usman-sheikh/money-talks-meet-three-people-who-want-to-live-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Government visa fees tell would-be immigrants that in the UK, money talks ...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><strong><strong><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">Shine A Lig</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">ht</a>&nbsp;reports from the frontline of Britain</strong>’s immigration and asylum system. See also&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed"><span><strong>‘</strong></span></a><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed">If I’d known what to ask for, wouldn</a><span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed">’</a></span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed">t have gone hungry</a></strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed"><span>’</span></a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/when-you-ve-got-three-children-being-left-without-their-dad-"><span>Theresa May</span><span>’s tough line on immigration punishes British children.</span></a></strong></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_2.jpg" alt="lead lead lead lead lead lead Illustration showing a crowd of men, women and children. Some have placards and pieces of paper." title="" width="460" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All illustrations by Carrie Mackinnon. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><hr /><p><span>These stories are fictionalised examples drawn from various clients’ experiences.</span></p><h2>Paula loves Edison and wants to live with him</h2> <p>Edison is a 24 year old Brazilian man. He’s from Salvador in the north east. He met Paula, a 21 year old British woman, while she was travelling in Brazil after finishing university in the UK. They fell in love and want to be together. They have decided to make a home in the UK.</p> <p>Paula wants to start her career in the UK and Edison is happy to give it a go. They have just got engaged and they are over the moon. Paula has <a href="https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/immigration/visas-family-and-friends/getting-a-visa-for-your-spouse-or-partner-to-live-in-the-uk/">done some research</a> and knows she has to earn £18,600 a year before she can apply for Edison to live with her in the UK. She has started a job in marketing on a starting salary of £19,000. She&nbsp;lives in London and is paying a lot in rent and bills.</p> <p>She has to pay £1,464 in Home Office fees (recently up from £1,195). She has no savings. She can’t afford it. But there is no way around it — if she does not pay, the application will not be considered. She also finds out that later on, when Edison wants to extend his visa or apply for British citizenship, he will have to pay more fees.</p> <p>She tries to get help. Her parents say that she is an adult, so she has to deal with it herself. Edison earns very little in his job teaching surfing (that’s how he met Paula). He has no savings. Paula finally manages to borrow some money from her older sister.</p> <p>She has looked into the application process and can see it is complicated. She wants to get a lawyer to help. Because of government cuts,&nbsp;there is no legal aid for immigration law. Most lawyers that she speaks to are charging £1,000 or more to help with this type of application. Paula finds a family and immigration law solicitor, Peter, who will do it for £500.</p> <p>Unfortunately, he isn’t very good.</p> <p>Peter neglects to ask Edison&nbsp;if he has ever come to the UK before. In fact he came to visit Paula last year. He was cautioned by the police for smoking a cannabis joint on the street. Peter does not record this in the visa application. The British Embassy dealing with Edison’s case refuse the application, claiming that Edison was trying to deceive them. The Embassy will not return the Home Office fee.&nbsp;</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/8dancing_3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/8dancing_3.jpg" alt="Illustration of man and woman dancing. " title="" width="460" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>If Edison wants to apply again, he will have to pay the Home Office fee again. Peter is claiming that the Embassy’s refusal is Edison’s fault, not his. He is refusing to return any of his fee for his work. He says it will be hard for Edison to obtain a visa in the future. If Edison had mentioned the caution, it might not have been such a big problem. Edison is annoyed. He’d been&nbsp;smoking with Paula and her friends on the way to a party, but the police did not caution anyone else.</p> <p>Paula and Edison are distraught. Paula doesn’t want to give up the career that she has just started in marketing. Her Portuguese is not good enough to find work in Brazil. And there aren’t many jobs in Salvador anyway.</p> <p>What’s more, Paula has now heard that the Conservatives want to increase the amount that she will have to earn before she can apply for a visa for Edison to live with her in the UK. (It’s in their <a href="https://s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/manifesto2017/Manifesto2017.pdf">Manifesto</a>). She only just had enough money this time, so she does not know what she will do if she and Edison make another visa application.</p> <p>Paula and Edison feel even worse now that Edison tells Paula that his friend, Rodrigo, had a much easier time coming to settle in the UK.&nbsp;Rodrigo&nbsp;did not have to pay any Home Office fees when he applied and the application process was simple. He did not bother to hire a lawyer. He has just received his visa.</p> <p>Paula learns that it was easier for Rodrigo because he is married to a Portuguese woman living in London. As his wife is an EU citizen, Rodrigo can apply under a different – and cheaper – system. Even though the UK is still in the EU, Paula does not count as an EU citizen in this situation. Rodrigo is now on his way to the UK (but he is worried about what will happen after Brexit).</p> <p>Paula and Edison don’t know what to do next.</p> <h2>Samira wants to protect her mother</h2> <p>Samira was born in Canada. Some years ago, she met a British man, Faisal, online. They had plenty in common — they both had parents from India, they were both looking for a Western Muslim partner and they were both teachers. Samira obtained a spouse visa, then indefinite leave to remain (settlement) and now she is a British citizen. She and Faisal have two British children and they live in Cambridgeshire.</p> <p>Back in Canada, Samira’s father&nbsp;recently&nbsp;passed away. Her mother Zarina&nbsp;is lost without him. He had always looked after her well, especially after she developed hip problems, which have limited her mobility significantly. She needs help going up stairs and moving around the house. She used to rely on her husband to drive her around. She is now alone and isolated. She wants to be with Samira, to whom she has always been close. Samira cannot move back to Canada - she is settled in the UK, with her British husband and children. Zarina, 67 years old, lives on her modest pension and has asked Samira to pay the costs of bringing her to the UK.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-right">Vijay explains that the Home Office fee alone for the application is £3,250&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Samira stopped working as a teacher after the birth of her children. Her husband, Faisal, is currently supporting the family. He earns £38,000. The family are managing — just about. Samira thinks that it will be easy to bring Zarina to the UK. She found it fairly easy to obtain her visa and she assumes that the Commonwealth links between Canada and the UK will help. Just to be on the safe side, she has arranged a meeting with an experienced immigration solicitor, Vijay.</p> <p>Vijay has a series of nasty shocks for Samira. First, her mother Zarina stands a low chance of obtaining the visa. It is unlikely that her situation is serious enough to meet the rules. Samira wants to try anyway. Vijay explains that the Home Office fee alone for the application is £3,250 (recently up from £2,676). He explains that the Home Office fees do not just cover the administrative cost of the system - they also contain a large profit element. His fees to help with the application will be £1,800.</p><p>Vijay points out that if — as is likely — the British Embassy dealing with the case refuse Zarina’s application, she may not be able to do much about it. She may not have a right to appeal to a court. If she does have a right to do this, she will need to pay more fees (some court fees and another £2,300 for Vijay). Zarina would probably have to wait at least a year for a court to hear the case.</p> <p>Samira decides that she can’t go ahead with the application. It is just too expensive and too uncertain. She calls her mother, Zarina, to explain. But Zarina interrupts her to say that she has had a fall at home and is very upset. She wants to know how soon she can come to the UK.</p> <p>Samira does not know what to say.</p> <h2>Hasan desires prestige and convenience</h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/11walletdetail.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/11walletdetail.jpg" alt="Illustration of a person holding open a wallet with notes. " title="" width="386" height="392" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Hasan is a 41 year old Pakistani man. He knows exactly what to do and exactly what to say. After all, he is a multi-millionaire. He is attracted by the prestige of holding a British passport — something which, for all his money, his Pakistani passport could never bring him.</p><p>Hasan is taking advice from Charlotte, a solicitor in the City specialising in immigration for “ultra high net worth” individuals. He will apply for an investor visa, offering to invest £10 million in a UK company. He will pay £1,561 in Home Office fees (recently up from £1,530) —&nbsp;not much more than Paula had to pay.</p> <p>Hasan will pay Charlotte £15,000 for her services helping with his application. Charlotte tells him that usually, to get a long term visa, you have to be able to speak English. But this one is special; there is no language requirement.</p> <p>Money talks, it seems.<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/10manwithwallet.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/10manwithwallet.jpg" alt="Illustration of a man holding a wallet with notes." title="" width="240" height="512" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Charlotte has told Hasan that the UK government wants to “roll out the red carpet” for immigrants like him. The government will offer him a fast track to settlement within 2 years - for which he will be happy to pay the £2,297 Home Office fee (recently up from £1,875). By then, he will need to learn English, but Karen has promised to recommend some elite English tutors.</p> <p>After that, Hasan will apply for British citizenship, unfussed by the £1,282 Home Office fee (recently up from £1,236). At each stage of the process, Charlotte will make sure that he is successful first time.&nbsp;</p> <p>After Hasan obtains his British passport, he will probably withdraw his investment and put it back into his bank account in Cyprus.</p> <p>As a multi-millionaire, Hasan has time to reflect on things. He knows that he obtained his wealth in Pakistan in questionable circumstances (though his expensive lawyers have made the allegations go away). He has always been willing to do anything necessary to get what he wants. Life in Pakistan showed him that was possible.</p> <p>Now, thinking about his move to the UK, he sees little real difference between the UK and Pakistan. In both countries, he can buy what he wants — in the UK, things are just more expensive. For him, British citizenship was always simply another product to be purchased. In both countries, he is surrounded by people saying Yes to him — in the UK, those people are just more expensive. In both countries, the rich get what they want and the rest get what they are given.&nbsp;</p> <p>He doesn’t think much about the UK’s welfare state, but he hears that it is struggling anyway.</p><h2>Social bonds</h2> <p>The government’s approach to visa fees encourages the Hasans of this world. It tells people who want to come to the UK that only the wealthy need apply. They reduce our social bonds to economic transactions. That makes us a poorer country.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/9dancerabsent_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/9dancerabsent_1.jpg" alt="lead lead Illustration showing the shadow of a woman dancing alone. There are feint outlines of a partner." title="" width="460" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><ul><li>See also: Colin Yeo, <a href="https://www.freemovement.org.uk/interregnum-11-years-without-free-movement-1962-1973/">The interregnum: 11 years without free movement from 1962 to 1973</a>, Free Movement Blog.</li><li><a href="https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/biography/ronan-toal">Ronan Toal</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/hostile-environment">Hostile environment</a>, Counsel Magazine, August 2016.</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>Illustrations by&nbsp;<a href="mailto:cmackinnon@hotmail.com">Carrie Mackinnon</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">Theresa May and the love police </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/so-many-reasons-why-turning-landlords-into-immigration-official">So many reasons why turning landlords into immigration officials is a bad idea</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/deportation-increasingly-foreign-britain-at-war-with-itself">Deportation: an increasingly &#039;foreign&#039; Britain at war with itself</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/love-is-not-all-you-need-says-court-of-appeal-can-you-afford-to-love-migr">Love is not all you need, says Court of Appeal: can you afford to love a migrant?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/can-you-afford-to-fall-in-love-with-migrant">Can you afford to fall in love with a migrant?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Usman Sheikh Sat, 03 Jun 2017 10:00:00 +0000 Usman Sheikh 111193 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fighting to win asylum from rape: the case of Erioth Mwesigwa https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/sian-evans/fighting-to-win-asylum-from-rape-case-of-erioth-mwesigwa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today, Monday 20<sup> </sup>February, at 4.30pm, a protest has been called outside the Home Office against the removal and detention of Erioth Mwesigwa, a rape survivor from Uganda.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/WARprotest.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/WARprotest.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>WAR protests at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, June 2014</span></span></span></p><p>When Erioth Mwesigwa came to the self-help group we help coordinate, she said nothing. She said nothing at the second meeting either but she looked a little less wary and withdrawn. But then she started chatting to other women in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7wZ8gJxuMs">the All African Women’s Group</a> in North London. By the time Erioth came to her fourth meeting she was standing up to report on the help she had given a woman who was under threat of losing her child. Within six months she was speaking about asylum seekers being denied health care at a meeting to save the NHS in Camden Council’s Chambers — such is the power of collective action.</p> <h2>Erioth’s story</h2> <p>Erioth was imprisoned and raped by soldiers in Uganda over 30 years ago because her husband was suspected of opposing the president. He escaped and was given asylum in the UK. Erioth didn’t. After she escaped from prison she hid with her godfather until she was recognised.&nbsp; She fled from his home, but her godfather was killed by soldiers who came to find her. She was hidden in an orphanage by a priest where, until she was recognised and had to flee again, she never left the compound. More discoveries and more escapes followed until in 2002 she ran out of places to hide. Erioth was being ordered to trap her husband into returning to Uganda.&nbsp; Friends warned her she would be killed and organised for her to come to England.&nbsp; </p> <p>After nearly 14 years living in the UK, Erioth was detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. Lately —&nbsp;on 10 February — guards came to take her to the airport to remove her to Uganda. She refused, politely, as is her way, and the guards backed off. But they threatened that next time she would be forced onto the plane. </p> <h2>Talking about rape</h2> <p>In one respect Erioth’s case is unusual – the rape she suffered has been believed. <a href="http://www.womenagainstrape.net/resource/book-misjudging-rape-breaching-gender-guidelines-a">Research by Women Against Rape (WAR)</a> found that 88% of victims seeking asylum are disbelieved by the Home Office. But even when women’s accounts are accepted, rape and its aftermath are routinely downplayed as grounds for asylum.&nbsp; </p> <p>Like many women, Erioth tried to keep her experiences of rape secret.&nbsp; Our research found that 20% of women had not been able to speak about rape before the Home Office considered their case and 14% still had not reported by the time of their appeal hearing.&nbsp; Erioth could not claim asylum because she couldn’t face speaking about the rape she suffered. Instead she again lived “underground”. It was only after she was offered counselling that she felt able to tell anyone she had been raped.&nbsp; </p> <p>But when interviewed by the Home Office, this reserved, quietly spoken woman couldn’t challenge immigration officials whose default position appears to be one of hostility and scepticism, tinged with not a small amount of racism. So the notes contain damaging inaccuracies which have been used to say she can safely return to Uganda.&nbsp; </p> <p>The aftermath of rape is at best systematically downplayed, at worst completely ignored, by the Home Office. So-called inconsistencies and late arriving disclosures are interpreted as evidence of lying, rather than symptoms of trauma. Erioth’s experiences, even though they were 33 years ago, continue to have a devastating impact on her life.&nbsp; We see the victims of historic child abuse speaking now still traumatised by what they suffered. Who would dare say that many years have passed and they should “get over it”?&nbsp; But that is what Erioth is being told.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AAWG_Ms_EM.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AAWG_Ms_EM.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The All African Women’s Group celebrates Erioth stopping her flight, February 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>Erioth’s case was deemed <em>“manifestly unfounded”</em> so denying her the opportunity to go before a judge and prove the Home Office wrong. No account was taken of the way she was forced to live in Uganda — she was barely asked about this in her interview.&nbsp; </p> <p>She was said to have <em>“failed to demonstrate systematic failure of state protection</em>” because she should have reported what happened to the police.&nbsp; Amnesty International has documented <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2010/04/uganda-victims-rape-and-sexual-violence-denied-justice/">how hard it is for rape victims in Uganda to get justice</a>; how much harder must it be if your attackers are soldiers. That is common sense, right? But it is a common sense ignored by the Home Office determined to deport at any cost, no doubt fired up by a politician-led witchhunt against asylum seekers and immigrant people. Even the <a href="http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/latest/news/4538_independent_inspector_calls_for_improvements_in_home_office_decision_making">Home Office’s own internal audits</a> have marked its casework records “weak” and “fail”.</p> <p>Even when evidence is presented to support a woman’s case, it is routinely ignored, disbelieved or wilfully misconstrued.&nbsp; In such circumstances, the right to appeal is vital — WAR found that women with expert evidence, from an organisation such as ours, are six times more likely to win at appeal than those without.&nbsp; </p> <h2>Collective self-help in action</h2> <p>The All African Women’s Group (AAWG) fortnightly meetings at the Crossroads Women’s Centre where we are also based, are now attended by over 90 women. Campaigning and legal cases are discussed using the principle of collective self-help. When a woman speaks about her situation, other women who often have suffered similarly, offer advice. &nbsp;If a woman needs extra help she often gets referred to the weekly work sessions WAR runs with AAWG, Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Legal Action for Women (LAW). Volunteers using <a href="http://legalactionforwomen.net/2015/03/12/stop-press-new-updated-self-help-guide-for-asylum-seekers-and-their-supporters-now-available-free/">LAW’s Self-Help Guide for Asylum Seekers and their Supporters</a> helped Erioth understand her case and write a summary which she used to find a new lawyer.&nbsp; This is “collective self-help” in action.&nbsp; </p> <p>Many women’s cases are undermined by poor or no legal representation; legal aid cuts have devastated their access to justice.&nbsp; Erioth’s solicitors spent two months failing to reply to her calls, let alone challenge the Home Office.&nbsp; We found another lawyer, but Erioth’s first solicitor was slow to forward her papers so time lapsed before it came to court. Judge Ockleton, then blamed Erioth saying she had deliberately used delaying tactics. </p> <h2>Rape survivors in detention</h2> <p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/a-dickensian-classic-set-in-bedfordshire/">Legal Action for Women’s investigation</a> found that over 70% of women in Yarl’s Wood are rape survivors.&nbsp; Our <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/15/yarls-wood-report-calling-for-closure-decade-abuse-complaints">dossier</a> (published jointly with Black Women’s Rape Action Project) documented 10 years of systematic sexual abuse by guards including rape, which has been covered up by Serco and the other corporations. A guard is due to go on trial shortly for alleged rape. But other accused guards still work at Yarl’s Wood and some have been promoted. Black Women’s Rape Action Project has been the main support for women inside who have spearheaded protests, including hunger strikes, demanding that the centre be shut down. When a whistleblower corroborated women’s reports he was sacked and blacklisted. We raised the abuse with the Joint Committee for Human Rights and key women MPs, but have seen no action. </p> <p>The government <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/david-rhys-jones/when-youve-been-tortured-does-it-matter-who-your-torturer-was">claims its “Rule 35”</a> procedure triggers release of victims of torture, who should not be detained.&nbsp; Erioth was accepted as a victim but she is still inside.&nbsp; The in-house doctor who spent approximately five minutes with her recorded that Erioth was having “flashbacks of the torture she suffered” since being detained. But the doctor concluded: “I’m not worried that continued detention will affect the lady’s mental health.”&nbsp; </p> <p>The only action triggered by Erioth’s Rule 35 report was the issuing of her “Removal Directions”. The Home Office could then justify her detention on the grounds that she faced imminent removal. </p> <p>In Erioth’s case the Home Office accepted that a GP was qualified to comment on a person’s mental health. Earlier this year I attended an appeal at which the Home Office disputed a GP’s competence on mental health—&nbsp;when the diagnosis undermined the Home Office case.</p> <h2>The bigger picture</h2> <p>Hundreds of people from all walks of life, including actor Miriam Margoyles, have now written to the Home Secretary to demand Erioth is released and given the right to an appeal in the UK.&nbsp; </p> <p>This outpouring of compassion is not unusual. We see it every time a woman is able to describe what she has suffered. But what is rarely heard is the voice of women from Africa who put the responsibility squarely with western governments and corporations for why people have to flee in the first place. For that we give the last word to the All African Women’s Group: </p> <p>“We are here because we were imprisoned, raped, starved, our children killed or taken from us under dictatorships and corrupt governments propped up by the West. The UK got rich from colonialism — £7 trillion was stolen from Africa and this theft of wealth and the most precious resource — people — continues to this day. When we arrive in the UK we are treated like beggars and criminals.&nbsp;We are made destitute, put in detention, racially and sexually abused. Politicians blame us for the lack of jobs and housing, the low wages, the strain on schools and the NHS. We didn’t cause austerity. We were its first targets.”</p> <p>For us in Women Against Rape we are motivated by the knowledge that in defending Erioth Mwesigwa we are defending ourselves; we refuse to be divided. Information about how you can write to the Home Secretary to support Erioth can be found <a href="http://womenagainstrape.net/erioth-mwesigwa%E2%80%99s-case-refused-%E2%80%93-more-help-needed">here</a>. Please join us at the demonstration outside the Home Office organised by the All African Women’s Group on Monday 20 February between 4.30 and 5.30pm. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jackie-long/headbutt-bitch-serco-guard-yarl-s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/vanessa-munro-sharon-cowan-helen-baillot/rape-and-asylum-claims-credibility-and-constr">Rape and asylum claims: credibility and the construction of vulnerability</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-bleeding-anus-interrogation-by-uk-border-agency">A child, a bleeding anus, interrogation by the UK Border Agency</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/ghosted-away-uk-s-secret-removal-flights-examined">Ghosted away: UK’s secret removal flights examined</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/barbara-tagged-and-monitored-like-criminal">Barbara, tagged and monitored like a criminal</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/july-court-rejects-uk-gov-attempt-to-send-transplant-patient-to-her-death">JULY: Court rejects UK gov attempt to send transplant patient to her death — AUGUST: &#039;Free at last&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Sian Evans Mon, 20 Feb 2017 15:04:05 +0000 Sian Evans 108921 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The end of domestic violence support for black and brown women in the UK? https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/end-of-domestic-violence-support-for-black-and-brow <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Dedicated refuges were created to answer a desperate need. Now their survival is at risk.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p>Balancing her baby daughter on her lap, Leah* sits in a bright room on the top floor of an East London office block. It’s a lively part of town. Newly built luxury flats tower over streets lined with decades-old black beauty shops, one-stop mobile phone stalls. The storefronts of family-run greengrocers are piled high with yams and bowls of okra, peppers and coriander.&nbsp;</p> <p>Leah is waiting to get help and advice from <a href="http://lawadv.org.uk">Latin American Women’s Aid</a>. They’re a small charity challenging violence against women and working with survivors of domestic abuse. They rent three rooms — one for an office, a crèche space for children and a place to see women.</p> <p>Lawa, as the group is widely known, opened in 1986 and they run the only domestic violence refuge for Latin Americans in the UK. Like other refuges and organisations set up in 70s and 80s Britain, they arose from radical women’s rights and anti-racist movements. Domestic violence shelters specifically for black, south-Asian, Chinese, Latin American and other ethnic minority women, now bundled under the term BAME, were founded because these women weren’t getting support from statutory or mainstream places.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersprotest2_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersprotest2_1.jpg" alt="lead lead lead Young woman holds banner. It says: "BME refuges are bridges to safety."" title="" width="240" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sisters Uncut block city bridges across the UK ahead of govt. spending statement. Photograph: Guen Murroni. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Decades on, by the time the Coalition government made deep cuts in public spending in 2010, many BAME domestic violence organisations, including Lawa, relied on council funding to pay for part, if not all, of what they offered. Bed spaces, English as a second language classes, counselling, childcare, time intensive advice work, court assistance.</p> <p>But in the past six years, cash-strapped local authorities have cut back frontline domestic violence services, diverting money from small specialist providers and awarding contracts to larger organisations making promises to deliver more for less money. </p> <p>Each year Women’s Aid surveys the state of refuge and service provision, each year the numbers are worse and each year brings news of another refuge closed. </p> <p>Then, last month, in response to the worsening crisis, the government released a £20m pot of funding for local authorities to bid for, in partnership with local specialist domestic violence providers. “Domestic abuse knows no barriers,” said Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. “It can happen to anyone of us, at any time. Our £20 million fund is designed to increase refuge spaces and ensure that no victim is ever turned away from the essential support they need.” The government said the fund was “also seeking to address the needs of diverse communities, including BME victims and those from isolated communities, so they can access support and help.”</p> <p>But there’s a problem.</p><hr /><p>It is a Tuesday when Leah visits Lawa’s drop-in session, and already she is dreading the weekend. Leah is 25 and lives in a two-bedroom flat with her husband Gabriel*, her baby and four other adults.</p> <p>Alejandra, one of Lawa’s case workers, sits across from Leah, taking notes at a table between them. </p> <p>Behind Alejandra, there’s a colour photo of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and a poster: “Unity, Strength, Resistance” splashed on red. Across the room Rosie the Riveter has been refashioned into four women: black, Spanish, white and Native American. The caption reads, Si, Se Puede! A Post-it note stuck to a cork noticeboard says, “Hey you don’t give up. Okay.” </p> <p>Leah tells Alejandra that she needs housing advice— that’s the purpose of her visit. But as Alejandra listens, another story emerges.&nbsp; </p> <p>Originally from Guatemala, Leah and Gabriel have lived in the UK for little over a year. Like nearly half of all Latin American migrants in London, Leah’s husband took an unskilled job. He cleans nine hours a day, and earns roughly £1,300 each month. Most weekends he drinks heavily, using alcohol to ease the disappointments of their life in London. </p> <p>Leah smiles and bounces her four-month old daughter on her lap. “He is a good man,” she says. “He is a good dad. It is just that the alcohol makes him aggressive.” </p> <p>Alejandra asks: “Are you frightened?”</p> <p>“No.” Leah shakes her head, still smiling. He is frustrated, she adds, the housing situation is unbearable and the family struggle to survive on his wages. </p> <p>It’s a familiar story to the women running Lawa. Men forced to work long hours in menial, ‘feminised’ jobs, become violent and abusive towards their wives.&nbsp; </p> <p>In Leah’s case the abuse is verbal. Malicious comments, name calling, heated arguments over money. Except the one time he grabbed her by the throat.</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersuncutprotest9.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersuncutprotest9.jpg" alt="Protestors walk on Waterloo Bridge carrying large banner. It says, "Give migrant survivors access to D.V services."" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Waterloo Bridge, London. Photograph: Guen Murroni. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>Between 2001 and 2011 Britain’s Latin American community grew fourfold. And though Latin Americans are not officially recognised as an ethnic minority, they experience the harassment, employment discrimination and problems that affect other minority groups in the UK. </p> <p>There are high employment rates for Latin Americans in London (85 per cent compared to the average for other foreign-born residents, 55 per cent), but much of that work, around 70 per cent, is concentrated in cleaning, hospitality and catering, despite professional training and experience acquired in their home countries.</p> <p>They face discrimination at work, 11 per cent are illegally paid below the minimum wage and the majority send a significant chunk of their low incomes back home. As with other poor and even middle income households in London, it is impossible to find decent housing, close to the centre where many of them work cleaning corporate buildings.</p> <p>These are the conditions revealed through research by Trust for London in the 2011 report No Longer Invisible. Few Latin Americans in London access public services, the report says, one in five never visit a GP. The restrictions on legal aid for poor migrants means few can get legal advice to regularise their migration status to access the full range of rights citizens receive. Settling into British life is difficult because of the unsociable hours in the typical jobs available, like cleaning and hotel work. English as a second language lessons are most likely to be during work hours or when people need to sleep because they work nights.</p> <p>When a woman in this community faces domestic violence, her experience intersects with the other problems she faces as a disadvantaged minority. The threat of homelessness, poverty, childcare, immigration, language needs, among other things.<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersprotest8_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersprotest8_0.jpg" alt="Young women at protest. Banner says, "Black services for black sisters."" title="" width="240" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Around 600 women and non-binary people took part in Sisters Uncut actions in Newcastle, Bristol, Glasgow and London. Photograph: Guen Murroni. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p> <p>This is where Lawa comes in. “The language barrier is almost the smallest issue women face if they go to a generic service,” says Salma, Lawa’s senior development officer. She adds: “The most important thing is that when they come through our doors, they are believed, culturally understood and properly supported, rather than judged and discriminated. BME services play a key role in building a bridge between BME survivors, local services and the wider British society. In our last user survey, 85 per cent of women did not feel confident enough to access mainstream services prior to seeing Lawa.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Lawa has changed over the years as more Latin Americans have arrived in London, mostly from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, and often via Portugal or Spain. As Home Secretary, Theresa May promised to create a hostile environment for migrants, and migrant women fleeing violence were no exception. Many of Lawa’s cases are “European Economic Area cases”, that is Latin American women with an EU passport from Spain or Portugal. Lawa sees women who flee to the UK after some sort of crisis, abuse by a relative or spouse. Or the women might be living in the UK on a spousal visa, linked to their husband’s British/European Economic Area status.</p> <p>In both cases Home Office rules restrict their access to public services, which means they are more likely to be destitute, homeless and vulnerable to exploitation and further violence. Women can apply to have the restriction lifted, but the threshold for proving violence and destitution, thus entitling them to public support, is high. The recent changes to immigration law have created a culture of suspicion among public sector professionals who aren’t always sure what foreign born women are entitled to and so lean towards refusing services or charging for it. </p> <p>One of Alejandra’s clients lives in the UK on a spousal visa. Originally from Colombia, she is married to a British man. He’s ex-Army, has access to guns that he uses to threaten her. She wants to leave, but her spousal visa comes with the condition that she has no recourse to public funds. </p> <p>Alejandra found a bed for her at a shelter that accepts ‘no recourse’ women. She is lucky; there are few such refuges in the country. The next step is securing a non-molestation order to prevent the husband from contacting her. This is expensive — they’ll need legal aid. Even then, it’s a tall order. She’ll need to prove destitution and provide evidence of the domestic violence. This involves gathering and collating GP letters, a marriage certificate, passport, bank statements and evidence from the refuge. If and when legal aid is secure, Alejandra can go ahead and apply for the non-molestation order. All this could take weeks. </p> <p>“Working with women who have no recourse to public funds is tough,” says Victoria, Lawa’s violence against women and girls coordinator. “What happens after the initial help? There are so few places we can send the women to. There aren’t many organisations that work with no recourse women, so we have to do the work ourselves. But we are a small charity with limited capacity and can’t indefinitely support the neediest women with no extra funding.”</p> <p>On the day of Leah’s visit, Victoria is working across the corridor in Lawa’s office on the phone, trying to reach a local GP. Other Lawa staff dash in and out, speaking in Spanish and English, to each other and on the phone to clients. Camilla, Lawa’s counsellor, has just secured a grant to expand the charity’s mental health support next year. Nayane, originally from Brazil, rushes out to help an Angolan woman, who has arrived with letters from the Department for Work &amp; Pensions stopping her grandson’s Disability Living Allowance. She is his sole carer and unsure of what to do next. Nayane gets on the phone to the DWP. </p> <p>Victoria shushes her colleagues as the doctor answers the phone. He wants £20 for a letter explaining the domestic violence Victoria’s client has experienced. “My client has nothing,” Victoria tells me later. “She was totally dependent on her husband.” </p> <p>Without the letter, they might not secure legal aid, which the woman needs to fight her husband in the family courts for custody of their children. In the worst cases women are deported, made homeless or forced to stay with their abusive partner.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/SISTERSPROTEST4_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/SISTERSPROTEST4_0.jpg" alt="Protestors shout while walking across Waterloo Bridge. " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"You block our bridges, so we block yours." Rallying cry at feminist direct action protest against cuts to DV services. Photograph: Guen Murroni. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p> <p>More women than ever need help. Lawa can’t keep up. Two years ago, Islington Council stopped funding Lawa’s work. “Since then we have been struggling to balance the books,” says Salma. “We continue to provide the service by going above and beyond, but there is great insecurity. We don’t know how much longer we will be able to provide the service women deserve without additional funding.”</p> <p>About that £20m funding pot from the government. The design and structure of the commissioning process may block access to the groups who serve “BME victims and those from isolated communities”. Groups like Lawa. </p> <p>Earlier this year, research among charities based in London where around 40 per cent of the population is from an ethnic minority, revealed a profound lack of trust in the people who commission services. Imkaan, a black feminist network of violence against women and girls organisations, reported that many of its members felt local commissioners did not recognise the importance and necessity of BAME services. </p> <p>In England last year 662 women were turned away from domestic violence refuges because they had no recourse to public funds, up from 389 the year before. These women would have already been denied access to social housing, benefits or legal advice because of their status. There are no safe places for them to flee to. “The women we work with are victims twice over,” says Victoria. “First of domestic violence and then of the system's refusal to help them.”</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/SISTERSPROTEST7_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/SISTERSPROTEST7_0.jpg" alt="Protestor holds placard. It says, "Trans services for trans survivors are bridges to safety."" title="" width="460" height="690" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of Sisters Uncut demands is comprehensive DV services for all, especially underserved communities of black and brown, disabled and LGBT+ survivors. Photograph: Guen Murroni. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><div>In May, MPs held a parliamentary debate about the future of domestic violence refuges. Labour MP Julie Cooper called the debate todiscuss the lack of ring-fenced funding for women’s refuges. Cooper directed her plea to George Osborne, the then Chancellor responsible for orchestrating Conservative spending cuts, said: “At the end of every cut he makes to local authorities, there is a woman who will die, avoidably, at the hands of a man who once promised to love her. Cuts to public spending are creating orphans who could have grown up with parents. I beg the Minister to ensure that this Government do not unravel 40 years of good work. I beg him to listen and to act without delay.”<br /> <p>More than one politician said they feared BAME specialists services would not survive. Sarah Champion, Labour MP, spoke up for Lawa and for Apna Haq, a small domestic violence charity in her own constituency of Rotherham. “Such dedicated services are vital for women,” she said. “They are experts in their provision, designed and delivered by, and for, the users and communities they serve. The women who seek shelter see themselves reflected in the staffing and the management of the services.</p><p>“ … specialist services are trusted by the women who use them. Their presence is known in the community, meaning that women will self-refer, enabling those women to leave a violent relationship because they know that support exists.”</p> <p>But what if that support is taken away?</p><hr /><p><br />Leah’s interview with Alejandra lasted about 25, 30 minutes, long enough to squash any dream of finding a rented flat for just herself, her husband and daughter by in London. “It’s going to be very difficult to find somewhere to live, especially on his wages,” Alejandra said. They might qualify for housing benefit, but they need to find a place to live first and a contract before applying. “It is impossible.” A look on Leah’s face suggests she knew this. She smiled, then more questions. If I go back to Guatemala without telling him? What will happen? And then: I would like to divorce him. A divorce would invalidate her right to remain in the UK. Leah gets up to leave and puts her daughter into her pushchair. She plans to come back to Lawa for the free English lessons. Alejandra has told her about a service in north London for families with drug or alcohol problems, the couple should attend together. If your husband refuses, she says, “Call me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karen-ingala-smith/when-man-kills-woman">When a Man Kills a Woman</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/jeremy-corbyn-and-women-matter-of-policy-not-appointment">Jeremy Corbyn and women: a matter of policy not appointment </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maid-in-london/exposing-daily-violence-of-womens-hotel-work">Exposing the daily violence of women&#039;s hotel work</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rahila-gupta/assault-on-bme-womens-organisations-in-uk">16 Days: cutting Black and minority ethnic women&#039;s organisations </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/rats-in-lunchbox-mould-in-mattress-living-in-squalor-in-london">Rats in the lunchbox, mould in the mattress: living in squalor in London</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight UK Economics Equality Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 16 Days: activism against gender based violence gender justice Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Tue, 06 Dec 2016 07:30:59 +0000 Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi 107377 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May has made it clear she intends to follow previous governments in tarnishing Iraq abuse allegations as false. Final day of our 7 day series.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Q.tonyblair.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Q.tonyblair.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="268" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.” Tony Blair’s post-Chilcot Report press conference, Admiralty House, London. PA/Stefan Rousseau. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="Default">At the Conservative Party conference, fellow Tories cheered as Theresa May promised to protect “our brave armed forces” and attacked lawyers representing Iraqi civilians making claims of abuse, torture and unlawful killing against British soldiers. She said, “We will never again in any future conflict let those activist left-wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave the men and women of our armed forces.” </p> <p class="Default">Over the past few days we have looked at the various investigations into what happened in Iraq and how the government and the courts have responded to allegations of abuse and unlawful killing</p> <p class="Default">But why is it that lawyers acting for the Iraqi civilians making the allegations are now attacked by the government, Conservative MPs and some newspapers?</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SUNFRONTPAGE_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SUNFRONTPAGE_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="587" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sun front page 17 October 2016</span></span></span></p><p class="Default"> In May 2004 a British army unit fought Iraqi insurgents at the town of Majar al-Kabir. The skirmish was called the “Battle of Danny Boy” the name of the British checkpoint close by. Twenty or more Iraqis were killed. Their bodies were loaded onto a truck and taken back to the British base at Abu Naji for identification. Nine surviving captured fighters were taken there too for interrogation. When the bodies were released the day after the fighting, their families claimed they bore the marks of deliberate mutilation. The uncle of one of the men killed, Al-Sweady, claimed his nephew had died in the camp not on the battlefield. The nine survivors would also later claim they had been tortured and abused.</p> <p class="Default">Public Interest Lawyers and Leigh Day &amp; Co took on the case once the Royal Military Police found there was no cause for complaint. As with previous cases, PIL sought a judicial review of that decision, saying the investigation had been insufficient. </p> <p class="Default">The Ministry of Defence defended that action. At a <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8300726.stm">hearing in 2009</a>, the high court encountered considerable resistance by the government when asked to disclose documentation about the affair. The Secretary of State’s failure to hand over relevant papers was described as “lamentable” by the court. And the evidence of Colonel Dudley Giles, one of the senior RMP officers who was presented as the government’s witness to discuss disclosure, was also described as “unsatisfactory”. The court held that the investigation by the army into the allegations was “not thorough or proficient” and ordered that a proper investigation should be undertaken. Only then did the Secretary of State, now Bob Ainsworth, decide on another public inquiry.</p> <p class="Default">It took five years for the inquiry to finish its work. In December 2014 Sir Thayne Forbes, the Inquiry chair, dismissed all the serious allegations. He said the unlawful killing and torture claims were “without foundation”, “completely baseless” and the product of “deliberate lies”. Some mistreatment had been suffered by the Iraqi detainees (blindfolding, deprivation of food and sleep in particular) but they were insignificant compared to the original allegations. </p> <p>From this point it was not the conduct of soldiers, but the conduct of solicitors representing those bringing the allegations which have dominated both the news and government policy. </p><p class="Default">The Inquiry findings gave a fillip to the MoD’s argument long maintained that there was no need for any wide-scale scrutiny into the army or the government’s planning for and conduct in Iraq. It justified resisting every case at each stage of the legal process. And it re-directed the story to one of fat-cat lawyers and dubious Iraqi claims. Though the proven cases of unlawful killing and ill-treatment still stood (Baha Mousa, Camp Breadbasket, Ahmed Ali and others) and were still being uncovered, the Al-Sweady findings changed the atmosphere. </p> <p class="Default">Suddenly, there was a presumption that all allegations were suspect. And the news that both PIL and Leigh Day solicitors were charged with breaches of professional rules reinforced that message.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>What next for the Iraq allegations?<br />&nbsp;</strong></h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/brianhaw.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/brianhaw.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Peace protestor Brian Haw (bottom left) in Parliament Square, London, as demonstrators react to the statement then Prime Minister Gordon Brown made earlier regarding the inquiry into the war in Iraq, 15 June 2009. Johnny Green PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span><br /></strong></p><p class="Default">The more persistent government line is that the allegations are presumed false and do not deserve to be unpicked collectively. Political pressure to dismiss all individual claims quickly is now a high priority. The government continues to state that no one is above the law, but the dominant message is that these are spurious claims promoted by unscrupulous lawyers, hired by Iraqis on the make. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37448028">Theresa May</a> seems to have adopted that line wholesale.</p> <p class="Default">It’s a dangerous position to maintain. We know that the UK entered into the Iraq War without proper planning for its aftermath. The lamentably late-reporting Chilcot Inquiry established that. Is it safe then to presume that the treatment of civilian detainees or the conduct of security operations against a developing insurgency would have been any better prepared for?</p> <p class="Default">We know too that bad things happened. There is a line of substantiated cases. The Baha Mousa Inquiry (which revealed a host of individuals across ranks involved in abuse), the Nadhem Abdullah death, the Camp Breadbasket photographs, Ahmed Ali’s drowning, other proven instances of killing and ill-treatment, and the payment of millions of pounds in compensation by the MoD <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/476727/20151109-FOI2015-06481-RESPONSE-O.pdf">(£19.6million has been paid out for 323 claims as at November 2015</a>), all tell us this. Why then intimate that <em>all</em> current claims are false without due examination? Al-Sweady taught us that a proper inquiry can establish whether war crimes have been committed or not. If there is no inquiry the allegations will remain unresolved, festering over time.</p> <p class="Default">The prevailing line, however, is that any inquiry into the activities of our armed forces abroad is assumed to be unnecessary, perhaps even an act of treachery. There is no political opposition to the government’s stance either, hardly surprising given Labour’s involvement in the Iraq War. That makes individual accountability of any kind in the higher echelons of the military or government unlikely. Getting to the bottom of allegations that unlawful systems were in place, in the methods of interrogation and treatment of detainees, in the rules of engagement for dealing with ‘looters’, or the general policing in Basra during the occupation, is highly unlikely too.</p> <p class="Default">We know already that the investigations have been going on too long to the detriment of everyone: the soldiers who might stand accused and are brought back time and again to answer questions posed by different agencies over many years; the victims and their families who have or <em>may</em> have suffered from abuse; the British public who are persistently prevented from knowing what was done or not done in their name in Iraq. The delay is the direct result of the government’s long-held position, whether Labour, Coalition or Conservative: resist and deny and keep hidden any scrutiny of these matters.</p> <p class="Default">If justice is about truth, about the right to know, there seems little chance of its excavation as regards any aspect of the UK’s intervention in Iraq. Though on occasion the family of someone harmed or killed may learn how and why it happened, the process is shamefully slow. Ahmed Ali’s family had to wait thirteen years. Baha Mousa’s sons continue to see who may be held accountable for their father’s killing.</p> <p class="Default">The unchallenged political momentum remains towards drawing a veil over the whole enterprise. Is that something we want? Or have we learnt so little from <a href="http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/">Hillsborough</a> and <a href="http://otjc.org.uk/?pagerd_t20sonc">Orgreave</a> and <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26465916">Stephen Lawrence </a>and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/feb/06/mid-staffs-hospital-scandal-guide">Mid Staffordshire</a> to appreciate the injustices that can be hidden when institutions close ranks? Perhaps we should ask who is actually being protected if the government bring a halt to the allegations?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la">A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq">From war to occupation in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Access to justice Shine A Light A.T. Williams Sun, 20 Nov 2016 11:00:00 +0000 A.T. Williams 106232 at https://www.opendemocracy.net British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">Hooding, sensory deprivation, stress positions. . . methods used illegally in 1970s Northern Ireland are deployed again. (Day 5 of our 7 day series).<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/N.militarycourt.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/N.militarycourt.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Military Court Centre at Bulford, Wiltshire. Press Association/Barry Batchelor. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="Default">In August 1971, the British government sanctioned a mass detention operation in Northern Ireland in response to increasing violence in the Province. Those arrested were taken to specially prepared holding centres in central Belfast, Londonderry and County Down. More than 3000 people were interned by March 1972.</p> <h2>The Five Techniques</h2> <p class="Default">It didn’t take long for internment to become known as a ruthless and brutal process. Those arrested and later released spoke of a systematic handling insidious in its ability to induce hopelessness, fear and chronic stress. Five methods of treatment were used across the detention centres. Prisoners were hooded, forced to stand spread-eagled against a wall, placed in rooms where a constant loud and hissing noise was played, prevented from sleeping before interrogation, and given minimal food and drink. The measures were intended to break the internees, to make them more susceptible to interrogation. They were called the Five Techniques and together amounted to cruel and inhumane treatment according to the European Court of Human Rights. </p> <p class="Default">After the scandal broke, Prime Minister Edward Heath made a statement to the House of Commons in 1972. He said the techniques “will not be used in future as an aid to interrogation”. But he didn’t stop there. “The statement that I have made,” he said, “covers all future circumstances.” If a subsequent government should ever change its mind on this policy, he went on, then they “would probably have to come to the House and ask for powers to do it.” </p> <p class="Default">The government issued plain instructions to the army. A directive issued by the Joint Intelligence Committee ordered that “no form of coercion is to be inflicted on persons being interrogated. Persons who refuse to answer questions are not to be threatened, insulted, or exposed to other forms of ill treatment.” It explicitly prohibited the Five Techniques.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2>One hotel receptionist </h2> <p class="Default">Thirty years later, in September 2003, members of the 1st Battalion of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment raided a Basra hotel. They were looking for insurgents. Though they found none, Baha Mousa, the hotel night receptionist, was arrested along with several other hotel workers. Forty-eight hours later Baha Mousa was dead. At the court martial three years later of seven soldiers allegedly involved, the evidence was conclusive: Mousa and those detained with him, had been subjected to the Five Techniques. They were all hooded with double sandbags, ‘conditioned’ (as the military now called it) through stress positions, and deprived of sleep, food and water. Their guards punched and kicked them too, brutally and consistently. Baha Mousa’s body showed the extent of the assaults. Another detainee suffered kidney failure.</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/L.bahamousa_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/L.bahamousa_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="641" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Baha Mousa, who died while held in custody by British soldiers. PA/LIBERTY. All rights reserved.
</span></span></span></p> <p class="Default">Although the court martial was unable to pin blame for the ill treatment on anyone except Corporal Payne, it heard that the ban on the Five Techniques had somehow been forgotten. Interrogators had been trained in using some of these methods and army lawyers argued amongst themselves on whether hooding or stress positions were lawful or not. One officer said there had been a “corporate memory loss”. </p> <p class="Default">The result of the court martial provoked no formal government response. It continued to resist undertaking a full inquiry into the case. Only when the European Court of Human Rights gave judgment on 13 June 2007 in the <em>Al-Skeini </em>litigation was something done. The court confirmed that investigation into the death of Baha Mousa had been wholly inadequate. The court martial did nothing to remedy that. It said the government had failed its duty to the victims and their families to find out what had happened and learn lessons for the future. An internal army review was insufficient too. It could not qualify as an independent process. </p> <p class="Default">It took nearly another year before the then Minister of Defence, Des Browne, announced what would be done. On 14 May 2008, he established a public inquiry into “how it came to be that Mr Mousa lost his life”. He said the army “had no wish to hide anything”.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2>“Serious, gratuitous violence”</h2> <p class="Default">Sir William Gage was appointed as the inquiry chair. He began public hearings in 2009. Two years later, in September 2011, he published his final report. Gage condemned the “serious, gratuitous violence” used against Mousa and the other detainees. He condemned senior commanders for their ignorance of the Heath ban on the Five Techniques, attributing that to a systemic, corporate failure. And he condemned eighteen individual soldiers for specific abuse and a number of officers from the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Mendonca to Father Peter Madden (the unit’s Catholic padre) for their failure to prevent it.</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/O.iraqiprotestors.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/O.iraqiprotestors.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iraqis protest against the killing of 26-year-old Baha Mousa, Tahir Square, Baghdad, 9 September 2011 AP/Press Association/Khalid Mohammed. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="Default">Gage was unable to say that the ill treatment showed widespread abuse by British forces in their detention of civilians. He did not have the power to investigate any other allegation. But he said there was an absence of a proper doctrine on interrogation and this contributed to the banned techniques re-appearing in Iraq.</p><h2>Human Rights Court favours scrutiny</h2><p class="Default">Two months before Sir William Gage published his Baha Mousa Inquiry report, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment on the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.uio.no/studier/emner/jus/humanrights/HUMR5140/h14/documents/al-skeini.pdf">Al-Skeini</a>&nbsp;case. It decided that the European Convention on Human Rights should apply to operations of the British armed forces in relation to the exercise of its powers in Iraq. That included the detention of civilians and security operations on the streets of Basra. It meant the UK was required to have undertaken full and proper inquiries into any death in custody, any killing of a civilian wherever that took place, and any ill-treatment that had been caused by British military personnel. &nbsp;</p><p class="Default">The decision opened the way for allegations about unlawful killing and ill-treatment of Iraqi civilians to be brought before the British legal system. Until then, though the MoD were aware of hundreds of complaints, it could mostly ignore them.&nbsp;</p><p class="Default">After the European Court’s judgment that approach had to change. But how?</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><h2>Tomorrow, Allegations against troops rise and a pattern of abuse emerges.</h2><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la">A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq">From war to occupation in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide">Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Access to justice Shine A Light A.T. Williams Fri, 18 Nov 2016 00:07:30 +0000 A.T. Williams 106144 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From war to occupation in Iraq https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">The fall of Saddam Hussein and the death of Baha Mousa. (Day 4 of our 7 day series)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/J.iraqiwomen.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/J.iraqiwomen.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iraqi women wait outside the prison in Abu Ghraib, outside Baghdad, Iraq. Press Association/Anja Niedringhaus. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">On <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">Monday</a> we reported on Prime Minister Theresa May’s promise to crack down on “activist left wing human rights lawyers” to prevent them “harassing” British soldiers. On <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">Tuesday</a>&nbsp;we told the story of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali, left to drown after being forced into a river by soldiers, one case among hundreds brought to light by investigations into British conduct in Iraq. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">Yesterday</a> we looked at the absence of serious inquiry into these allegations by the Chilcot report and parliament. Today we look at some of the origins of this affair. </p> <p class="Default">After the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the rapid collapse of military opposition offered by Saddam Hussein’s forces, the US-led coalition quickly decided that there would be a need to intern thousands of Iraqis who might pose a threat to British and American forces. The Coalition rounded up people who might have useful information, members of the old regime, enemy troops.</p><h2>Organised programmes of interrogation</h2> <p class="Default">As invasion turned into occupation, the purpose of internment or detention expanded. Coalition forces wanted to uncover weapons of mass destruction and seek out those Iraqi officials who might be held accountable for the Baathist regime’s crimes against its own population. And to obtain intelligence about resistance to the Coalition’s occupation, the so-called ‘insurgency’. </p><p class="Default">Coalition forces — which included&nbsp;American, British, Australian and Polish troops —&nbsp;were prepared to incarcerate large numbers of individuals and subject many to organised programmes of interrogation. US forces took over Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad prison called Abu Ghraib, and used it to detain 7000 Iraqis.</p><p class="Default">Other detention camps were specially built by the Americans and British across the country. Camp Bucca, a huge compound of barbed wire, watch towers and army tents, served as the Coalition’s internment facility for southern Iraq where UK forces operated.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Default">Despite intense security, news of life in these camps leaked out. <a href="http://reliefweb.int/report/iraq/iraq-amnesty-international-reveals-pattern-torture-and-ill-treatment">Amnesty International reported</a> on conditions and allegations of torture by US personnel at Abu Ghraib prison as early as July 2003. In the spring of 2004, the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB108384106459803859">Wall Street Journal</a> revealed the contents of a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross criticising the methods of detention and interrogation as “serious violations of international humanitarian law”. Both the American and British forces were named as responsible.</p><h2>Hooding, beatings, sleep deprivation . . .</h2> <p class="Default">One case in particular was mentioned. Baha Mousa and several other Iraqi civilians had been taken into custody by the 1st Battalion of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment on 14 September 2003. Within 48 hours Baha Mousa was dead. Along with the others, he’d been hooded with sandbags, forced into stress positions, deprived of sleep, food and water, and beaten repeatedly. During one final assault by British troops guarding him, he’d died of positional asphyxia, held on the floor with his arms handcuffed behind him, his head pulled back and unable to breathe.&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="Default">In March 2004, Phil Shiner, principal of the solicitors’ firm Public Interest Lawyers, announced that he’d been instructed to act for Baha Mousa’s father and that he was bringing an application before the High Court for a judicial review into the investigation of Baha Mousa’s death. He argued that the UK had failed in its human rights duties to carry out a sufficiently independent and timely inquiry into this death in custody. Five other cases (involving alleged killings of Iraqis either on the streets of Basra or in their homes) were brought at the same time in what became known as the <a href="http://www.interights.org/al-skeini/index.html">Al-Skeini litigation</a>, named after the first of the defendants, Hazim Al-Skeini, who was shot dead by a British army patrol in August 2003. </p> <p class="Default"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/K.daoudmousa.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/K.daoudmousa.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daoud Mousa holds pictures of his grandchildren and his son Baha outside the High Court in London, July 2004. Press Association/Stefan Rousseau. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><br /></strong></p><p class="Default">Over the following two or three years, stories of other abuse or killing by British troops emerged. As early as July 2004 the Ministry of Defence had <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/jul/03/military.iraq">acknowledged</a> that the Royal Military Police in Iraq were conducting investigations into the deaths of 37 Iraqi civilians. 15 year old Ahmed Ali had drowned in the Shatt al-Arab canal after being forced into the water by members of the Irish Guards. Nadhem Abdullah died after being stopped in a car by a Paratroop unit – he was pulled from his vehicle, struck on the head and left lying on the ground. Sa’eed Shabram was also found drowned in the canal.</p><p class="Default">Then, the scandal of Camp Breadbasket broke.</p> <h2>Photographic evidence</h2><p class="Default">Camp Breadbasket was the name given to a large complex set up by British forces on the outskirts of Basra that stored supplies for local distribution. Looters took advantage of the under-guarded perimeter and frequently broke in to steal whatever they could. The commanding officer decided to teach them a lesson. On 14 May 2003 he ordered his men to capture any looters they found and put them to work cleaning up the camp. About 20 were caught early that morning. But the soldiers decided to enact their own form of punishment. Some of the Iraqis were stripped naked and forced into simulated sex acts with each other. One was strapped to the forks of a forklift truck and raised high above the ground. Another was covered with a net, pushed to the ground and jumped on by one of the soldiers. </p> <p class="Default">It might have been all forgotten and disbelieved if it hadn’t been for one of the troops taking pictures of all the abuse. When he tried to have the photographs developed on return to the UK, the photographic shop called the police.</p> <p class="Default">The Camp Breadbasket photographs provoked outrage. No one could deny the cruelty on view. Soldiers looked as though they were enjoying humiliating and abusing their victims.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/breadbasket10.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/breadbasket10.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>British Courts Martial handout photo (number 10 of an original set of 22) showing Corporal Daniel Kenyon, 33, (in the brown t-shirt) and former Fusilier Gary Bartlam (L) leaning over an Iraqi detainee. TJO PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Default">But it was the death of Baha Mousa and abuse of the several other Iraqis held with him in the British base called Battle Group Main in Basra, which was more disturbing. Here a man had died. Pictures of Mousa’s battered and blood stained body were released and a post mortem report revealed that he’d suffered 93 separate injuries prior to his death. Later, a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqL6N3r3WiA">video</a> would emerge, recorded on one of the soldiers’ mobile phone. It showed some of the treatment the Iraqi civilians had endured during the very early part of their detention.</p> <p class="Default">The Ministry of Defence said immediately that all allegations of crimes committed by UK troops would be investigated and prosecuted. But the process was left in the hands of the army. </p> <p class="Default">It took two years for the Camp Breadbasket case to come to Court Martial. Three junior soldiers were convicted of relatively minor offenses, though one was found guilty of “disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind”. In their defence, the soldiers accused the army of turning them into scapegoats: they said they had been given illegal orders to “work the Iraqis hard’” but officers had escaped prosecution.</p> <p class="Default">The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/may/14/mousa.timeline">Baha Mousa</a> case also proceeded to court martial. But not before the Court of Appeal held in the <em>Al-Skeini </em>litigation, brought by Public Interest Lawyers, that an independent and effective inquiry had not yet been undertaken into Baha Mousa’s death.</p><h2>Closed ranks</h2> <p class="Default">When seven soldiers were finally brought to trial in late 2006 for the sustained and collective ill-treatment of Mousa and the other detainees, six were acquitted of all charges. Only one accused was convicted, Corporal Donald Payne, who’d already pleaded guilty to inhumane treatment. He was sentenced to a year in prison and dismissed from the army. No one was found responsible for the killing. The soldiers involved "closed ranks", the Judge Advocate in the case said. They claimed they could remember little about what happened.</p> <p class="Default">And still no independent inquiry had been undertaken into the incident.</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/M.michaeljackson.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/M.michaeljackson.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="424" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>General Sir Michael Jackson, former Chief of the General Staff, Ministry of Defence: Baha Mousa killing was “stain on the character” of the Army. Press Association/PA Archive. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Default">The killing of Baha Mousa and the acknowledged ill-treatment was widely condemned by senior army officers and ministers alike. <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/7809044/Mike-Jackson-criticises-commander-over-Baha-Mousa-death.html">General Sir Michael Jackson</a> would later call it a “stain on the character” of the British army. But even though more allegations of unlawful killing, torture and ill treatment were being brought before the civil courts, the government continued to resist any investigation other than through the Royal Military Police. There would be no independent public inquiry into the patterns of emerging claims, the Ministry of Defence said. Instead, the army would conduct its own review.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><h2>Tomorrow: British troops are alleged to have used interrogation techniques in Iraq Occupation 2003 that were outlawed by Ted Heath’s government in the 1970s.&nbsp;</h2><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la">A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide">Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Access to justice Shine A Light A.T. Williams Thu, 17 Nov 2016 08:28:15 +0000 A.T. Williams 106141 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why, in our democracy, is there so little appetite for proper public scrutiny? (Day 3 of our 7 day series)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G.chilcotreport.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G.chilcotreport.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Report of the Iraq Inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, published 6 July 2016, spans 12 volumes, 6,000 pages. Press Association/Jeff J Mitchell. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="Default"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">Yesterday</a> we told the story of a young Iraqi teenager who drowned after being forced into a river by British soldiers. His death wasn’t an isolated incident. </p> <p class="Default">In September 2003 Baha Mousa, an Iraqi citizen, died after being severely beaten and subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment by British soldiers. In 2005 photographs taken at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/jan/19/iraq.military">Camp Breadbasket</a> in Iraq showed British soldiers abusing civilian prisoners.The Iraq Historic Allegations Team is investigating almost 1,500 more cases of alleged abuse and unlawful killing.</p> <p class="Default">The UK government, politicians and campaigners fume at the alleged misconduct by lawyers representing people making allegations of abuse, and what they see as the disrespect shown for the British Army and its heroic servants. They want an end to all legal processes.</p> <p class="Default">But others argue that there has been a failure at the heart of government to get to the bottom of a scandal and that deaths like that of Ahmed Ali and the alleged ill-treatment of hundreds more must be investigated along with any sanctioned system of abuse.</p> <p class="Default">Who should be believed?</p> <p class="Default">Some had hoped the Chilcot Report might provide answers. But the <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/">Iraq Inquiry</a> chaired by Sir John Chilcot considered its mandate to be restricted and was never minded to assess allegations of the systematic abuse or unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians by UK forces. </p> <p class="Default">Chilcot noted in his <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/the-report/">report</a>, finally delivered in July 2016 after years of consideration, that criminal investigations were on-going at the time of his hearings, that there had been two public inquiries into specific cases of abuse (<a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120215203912/http:/www.bahamousainquiry.org/">Baha Mousa</a> and <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/al-sweady-inquiry-report">Al Sweady</a>), that lessons about detention and interrogation had already been learned, and that any further investigation by his inquiry might overlap and perhaps prejudice these processes. </p> <p class="Default">Questions of systemic abuse were therefore not his concern.</p> <p class="Default">Even so, the report did say how poor the preparations had been for the transition from invading army to occupying force. On the predictable lawlessness that followed the invasion, Chilcot wrote: “Faced with widespread looting after the invasion, and without instructions, UK commanders had to make their own judgements about what to do.”</p> <p class="Default">The Inquiry heard from Brigadier Graham Binns that, “the best way to stop looting was just to get to a point where there was nothing left to loot”. The case of Ahmed Ali suggests other more abusive tactics were used too. Chilcot acknowledged none of this.</p> <p class="Default">Some of the most disturbing testimony did not make its way into the final report. Kevin Hurley, once Detective Chief Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, and a senior member of the Territorial Army, served two terms in Iraq between 2003 and 2004. He gave a statement to the Inquiry about his experiences in Camp Bucca, a detention centre outside Basra.</p> <p class="Default"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/H.campbucca.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/H.campbucca.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Detainees pray at former U.S. military detention facility Camp Bucca, Iraq. 16 March 2009 AP/ Press Association/Dusan Vranic. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><br /></strong></p> <p class="Default">Hurley said about 7000 prisoners were held “in a dozen barbed wire enclosures... set up in the middle of the desert” with “no running water or sewerage provision. Poisonous snakes and rats were everywhere.” </p> <p class="Default">The camp was run by the US military but the British had an interrogation centre there too. <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/96046/2010-06-17-Statement-Hurley.pdf#search=hurley">Hurley</a> said that those in charge “had almost no idea why many of the prisoners were in custody.” </p> <p class="Default">There were young children amongst them, 10 or 11 years old. “At one stage,” Hurley said, “I had to intervene to have these children properly cared for. On a number of occasions I spoke with UK officers about the insensitive and arrogant way they dealt with prisoners. I had a pointed discussion with a barrister in the UK Army Legal Services who had been particularly rude and bigoted in the treatment of detainees.”</p> <p class="Default">Hurley’s final assessment as “a career policeman with many years of senior investigative experience” was disappointment at “how little thought had been given to the issues of prisoner management in terms of provision of basic rights, dignity and influencing their decision whether to talk to us.”</p> <p class="Default">None of this inspired Chilcot to look further.</p> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/I.RobinCook_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/I.RobinCook_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The late Robin Cook MP resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet in protest against the decision to invade Iraq, 17 March 2003</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">Does the Chilcot Inquiry’s inability or unwillingness to consider the Iraq allegations mirror a longstanding wilful political blindness?</p><p class="Default">The multiple claims of abuse in detention and unlawful killing haven’t attracted the recent attention of Members of Parliament from any party. No politician has campaigned for the truth to be publicly scrutinised.</p> <p class="Default">For the past 13 years the story has developed only because legal challenges and judgments (like those resulting from actions brought by Public Interest Lawyers and those heard by Sir George Newman), have forced accounts of illegal military action into the headlines.</p> <p class="Default">Even then the response has been restricted to one of ‘outrage’ at a specific crime, such as the killing of Baha Mousa or the drowning of Ahmed Ali. Successive governments have failed to grapple with the nature and scale of allegations, resisting calls for an overarching public inquiry into the possibility that systems of abuse had been allowed to develop or perhaps even ordered.</p> <p class="Default">Nor has the Labour Party, as official opposition since it lost power in 2010, challenged the government line.</p> <p class="Default">On 24 September, in an exclusive interview with the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/24/tony-blair-end-this-army-witch-hunt-into-britains-brave-soldiers/">Sunday Telegraph</a> Tony Blair said the Iraq Historic Allegations Team was a mistake. “I do not think this process should ever have been put in place,” he said. “I am very sorry that our soldiers and their families have been put through this ordeal.”</p> <p class="Default">Asked to comment, Jeremy Corbyn, who had just been elected Labour leader that same day, gave a curiously mild<strong> </strong>response. “There has to be a recognition that we’ve signed up to international law on the behaviour of troops,” <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07xsz1w/the-andrew-marr-show-25092016">Corbyn</a> said, “so I think there has to be investigations. Saying never to prosecute, I think, would be a step too far.”</p> <p class="Default">No mainstream political party and no prominent politician is fighting publicly to reveal whether the accumulated evidence indicates failures of policy or represents an unconnected sequence of criminal actions by a tiny minority of rogue soldiers. Only when MPs (mostly Conservatives) have sought to condemn the lawyers and call for on-going criminal inquiries against British troops to be wound up, has any particular political interest been evident.</p> <p class="Default">Why is this so?</p> <p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2>Tomorrow: In the beginning. What happened when the British invasion turned into occupation.</h2><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la">A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq">From war to occupation in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide">Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Access to justice Shine A Light A.T. Williams Wed, 16 Nov 2016 00:07:30 +0000 A.T. Williams 106095 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">Today we explore the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali.<strong>&nbsp;</strong>(Day 2 of our 7 day series)&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AHMEDJABBARKAREEMALIshort.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AHMEDJABBARKAREEMALIshort.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="273" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">On 15 September 2016 the British government issued a public apology for the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali, an Iraqi teenager who drowned after being forced into a river by British soldiers.</p> <p class="Default">Eight days later Prime Minister Theresa May attacked “vexatious claims” being brought against armed forces.</p><p class="Default"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers"> Yesterday</a> we examined that official narrative, and how some of the UK’s media promoted it. Today we tell the story of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali.</p><p class="Default">Sir George Newman, chair of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.iraq-judicial-investigations.org/">Iraq Fatalities Inquiry (IFI)</a>, investigated Ali’s death. The Inquiry was set up in 2013 to examine unresolved questions about some of the deaths of Iraqi civilians at the hands of British forces and is one of the processes which the&nbsp;<em>Mail, </em>the <em>Sun </em>and the&nbsp;<em>Telegraph&nbsp;</em>have campaigned to bring to an end.</p> <p class="Default"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E-Shatt_Al_Arab_river.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E-Shatt_Al_Arab_river.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="204" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>British Army soldiers on the banks of the Shatt Al Arab waterway in Basra, Iraq. Press Association/Lewis Whyld. All rights reserved.
</span></span></span></strong></p> <p class="Default">The IFI found that Ali, a 15 year old boy, with three other Iraqi civilians, was arrested in Basra on suspicion of looting by members of the Irish Guards on 8 May 2003.</p> <p class="Default">The soldiers put the four Iraqis in a Warrior armoured car and drove them to the Al-Zubair bridge on the Shatt Al Basra canal. Once there, they ordered the Iraqis out of the vehicle and into the water. </p> <p class="Default">It was supposed to be a form of rough and ready punishment, a tactic called ‘wetting’, designed to deal with increasing looting in the city. The British forces couldn’t cope with the problem. They didn’t have the manpower or the facilities for detaining looters. Instead they resorted to humiliation.</p> <p class="Default">One of the soldiers testified before the inquiry that after the three Iraqi men and Ali were forced into the river, he saw the “‘boy” then suddenly go under the surface, come up and then go under again. The boy didn’t reappear. None of the soldiers went in after him. They got back into the Warrior and left. Ali drowned, his body recovered from the river by his father two days later.</p> <p class="Default">Sir George questioned the soldiers and examined the evidence. He <a href="http://www.iraq-judicial-investigations.org/linkedfiles/reports/iraqfatalitiesinvestigationsreportintothedeathofahmedjabbarkareemali(web-optimisedpdf).pdf">concluded</a> that the actions of the four Guardsmen amounted to “a clumsy, ill directed and bullying piece of conduct, engaged in without consideration of the risk of harm to which it could give rise”. He said ‘“there was a manifest failure to take action to save the life of Mr Ali”.</p> <p class="Default">Sir George also indicated that the general treatment of looters in Basra required further investigation. &nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">He referred to evidence given by Captain Niall Brennan, one of the Operations officers in the Irish Guards at the time Ali died. </p> <p class="Default">Sir George reported that Brennan was “aware that one of the methods for dealing with looters was throwing them into one of the waterways”. It was a routine mode of punishment. And Brennan stated that his commanding officer “would have been aware of the practice”. </p> <p class="Default">The implication was that the treatment, clearly in breach of the Geneva Conventions, may have been known about or sanctioned by senior military personnel. Sir George announced that he intended to look further into the matter and any other cases of other Iraqis alleged to have died in circumstances similar to the death of Ahmed Ali.</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/F.Iraqi_children_stones_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/F.Iraqi_children_stones_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="247" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iraqi children in Hyyaniah, Basra in Southern Iraq, throw stones at British soldiers. Press Association/Richard Mills. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Default">How did the government respond to Sir George’s report? </p> <p class="Default">“This was a grave incident for which we are extremely sorry,” said the Ministry of Defence. “We are committed to investigating allegations of wrongdoing by UK forces.” The MoD would “learn lessons to help ensure nothing like this happens again.”</p> <p class="Default">Prime Minister Theresa May gave no comment. Two weeks later, her conference speech contained no sense of contrition, commitment to investigate, openness to learning lessons. Instead, she attacked the very people who sought to expose wrongdoing and hold government to account. </p> <p class="Default">“We will never again – in any future conflict,” May said, “let those activist, left-wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave – the men and women of Britain’s Armed Forces.”</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><h2>Tomorrow, a former policeman turned Territorial Army soldier tells of children as young as 10 locked up by British troops.&nbsp;</h2><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq">From war to occupation in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide">Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Access to justice Shine A Light A.T. Williams Tue, 15 Nov 2016 07:30:00 +0000 A.T. Williams 106049 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers? https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Government and media have denied, dismissed and derided allegations of abuse by British soldiers in Iraq. Over 7 days we’ll interrogate a very British scandal. Day 1: Attack the lawyers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A.CAMP_TORTURE_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A.CAMP_TORTURE_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Camp Breadbasket, near Basra, May 2003. British soldier Lance Corporal Larkin stands on an Iraqi detainee. Lance Corporal Kenyon snaps a photo. At court martial both men pleaded guilty to assaulting an Iraqi prisoner. In February 2005 Kenyon was convicted on three charges and Larkin was sentenced to five months in prison. PA/British court martial handout. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><p class="Default">When Prime Minister Theresa May addressed her party’s conference in Birmingham on 5th October 2016, her attack on human rights lawyers received the biggest cheer. </p> <p class="Default">“We will never again — in any future conflict — let those activist left wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave, the men and women of our armed forces,” she said to rapturous applause.</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/B.Theresa_May.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Theresa May, Conservative Party conference, Oct 2016. PA/Isabel Infantes EMPICS"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/B.Theresa_May.jpg" alt="" title="Theresa May, Conservative Party conference, Oct 2016. PA/Isabel Infantes EMPICS" width="460" height="606" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May, Conference speech October 2016. PA/Matthew Cooper. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">That was Wednesday. </p><p class="Default">On the Tuesday, defence secretary Michael Fallon had said that in future conflicts Britain would exempt itself from parts of the European Convention on Human Rights in order to “protect” armed troops from “industrial scale claims”, as seen from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.</p><p class="Default">And a couple of weeks earlier on Friday 23 September 2016, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37448028">Theresa May</a> met with the Chiefs of the Defence staff. She was “determined to stop ‘vexatious claims’ being brought against the armed forces”, she told them. Indeed May had made known her intentions outside the UN Building in New York a couple of days before. The attacks were not a recent occurence.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2>A Long Story</h2> <p class="Default">On New Year’s Day the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-soldiers-could-face-prosecution-for-crimes-committed-during-iraq-conflict-investigators-a6793271.html">Independent</a> led with ‘exclusive’ front page stories about the possible prosecution of British soldiers for the unlawful killing and abuse of Iraqi civilians between 2003 and 2009. </p> <p class="Default">Over successive weekends, it ‘exposed’ the depth of the scandal, numbering the allegations at over 250 deaths and 1200 incidents of ill-treatment. More than 50 killings, the Independent said, had been referred to the Service Prosecution Authority (the Armed Forces’ equivalent to the Crown Prosecution Service) to decide whether to start criminal proceedings against ex-servicemen.</p><p class="Default"> Complainants alleged torture, sexual assault, rape. Lt Col Nicholas Mercer, who’d served in Iraq during 2003 as one of the most senior army lawyers, said in a <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lieutenant-colonel-nicholas-mercer-says-it-is-beyond-question-that-british-soldiers-tortured-iraqis-a6803281.html">newspaper interview</a> that civilian detainees had been subjected to terrible treatment at the hands of the British. He’d witnessed abuse in the detention camps set up in south east Iraq.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p class="Default"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/C.CAMP_TORTURE.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/C.CAMP_TORTURE.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iraqi detainee bound in a netting. In 2005 three British soldiers were convicted of abusing civilians at the camp and dismissed from the army. This image was one of 22 taken from the cameras of five British soldiers. PA/British court martial handout. All rights reserved. </span></span></span><br /></strong></p><p class="Default">Two days later, a Daily Mail <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3383135/End-witch-hunt-soldiers-Fury-ambulance-chasing-lawyers-try-prosecute-UK-s-Iraq-heroes-handed-taxpayers-millions-it.html">headline</a> shouted: </p> <p class="Default"><em>“End witch-hunt of our soldiers: Fury as ‘ambulance-chasing lawyers’ try to prosecute UK’s Iraq heroes - and are handed taxpayers’ millions to do it”</em></p><p class="Default"><em><br /></em></p><h2>“Legal witch hunt”</h2><p class="Default"><em><span>The Mail described the investigations as a “legal witch hunt against UK troops” and called for lawyers to “stop harassing soldiers who had simply been doing their duty”. &nbsp;</span></em></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/2DAILYMAILFRONTPAGE.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/2DAILYMAILFRONTPAGE.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daily Mail front page, 4 January 2016</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">The Sun joined in and <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/politics/937619/shocking-flaw-in-1500-iraq-abuse-claims-says-top-soldier/">questioned</a> the volume of torture and unlawful killing claims, quoting Colonel Richard Kemp, who headed UK operations in Afghanistan: “<em>The sheer number of allegations — I cannot believe any significant number can be valid.</em>”</p> <p class="Default">It wasn’t long before interest shifted to the law firms acting for the Iraqi civilians making the allegations. Ambulance chasers, rogues, milking legal aid to humiliate the brave soldiers who’d served their country. These shysters were the bad guys as far as the <em>Mail </em>was concerned.</p> <p class="Default">Government ministers seemed to agree. Penny Mordaunt, Armed Forces Minister at the time, told the Commons on 27 January 2016 that a task force was to be set up to find ways of “protecting our armed forces from litigation motivated by malice and money”.</p> <p class="Default">The then Prime Minister David Cameron demanded an end to the “spurious” claims, as he referred to them. He wanted restrictions on foreign nationals drawing on legal aid to bring actions against Armed Forces personnel. And he called for professional disciplinary action against the principal law firms acting for the Iraqi claimants too.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E.CAMPTORTURE.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E.CAMPTORTURE.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Camp Breadbasket, May 2003. Lance Corporal Mark Cooley drives a fork lift truck with an Iraqi detainee bound to it. PA/British court martial handout. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><p class="Default">For a while, the lawyers became <em>the</em> story. Parts of the press, politicians and ex-soldiers accused solicitors' firms Public Interest Lawyers and Leigh Day &amp; Co. of breaching professional ethics, of touting for business in Iraq and, by implication, encouraging false claims of abuse.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Legal misconduct? No direct evidence</strong></h2> <p class="Default">The <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/11442574/Al-Sweady-file-exposes-the-smearing-of-British-soldiers.html"><em>Telegraph</em></a> had already claimed to have seen a government dossier in March 2015 purportedly substantiating the allegations of misconduct by the lawyers, though it acknowledged there was “no direct evidence that Public Interest Lawyers or their agents are making unsolicited approaches to potential clients” inside Iraq.</p> <p class="Default"><a href="http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/solicitor-check/067679.article">The Solicitors Regulatory Authority</a>, the body responsible for policing the profession, began investigations regardless. In May 2016 it referred two principal solicitors and an associate from Leigh Day &amp; Co. to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. They deny any wrongdoing and a hearing is marked down for 30 days (an unprecedented period for the Tribunal) beginning in March next year.</p> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SUNFRONTPAGE.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SUNFRONTPAGE.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sun front page, 17 October 2016</span></span></span>In August 2016 the Solicitors Regulatory Authority also brought unspecified charges against Phil Shiner, principal of Public Interest Lawyers. Shiner denies any wrongdoing (all details have been kept confidential so far). His case will be heard by a disciplinary tribunal in 2017. </p> <p class="Default">Richard Littlejohn of the <em>Mail</em> has campaigned against Shiner for years. “<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2976731/Let-s-shyster-shiner-says-RICHARD-LITTLEJOHN.html">Let’s give this shyster a shiner</a>,” he wrote in 2015, labelling Public Interest Lawyers a “Left-wing law firm” making “vexatious allegations of ‘war crimes’ against blameless British troops.” A headline from 2013 read: “<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2333546/RICHARD-LITTLEJOHN-He-comedian-hes-certainly-having-laugh-Phil-Shiner-The-Great-Human-Rights-Swindle.html">Phil Shiner and the Great Human Rights Swindle</a>.” Littlejohn wrote: “Shiner is always on the lookout for a jihadist with a grievance which can be used to discredit the Army and win some hard cash.”</p> <p class="Default">In August of this year Public Interest Lawyers ceased business after the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37084030">Legal Aid Agency withdrew government funding.</a> Next day, Littlejohn said in his <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3742454/Now-Professor-Shyster-hounded-hundreds-innocent-British-soldiers-dock-demands-RICHARD-LITTLEJOHN.html">column</a>: “The law firm that has hounded British troops with false allegations of war crimes is going out of business.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DD.Public_Interest_Lawyers_plaque.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DD.Public_Interest_Lawyers_plaque.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="525" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Public Interest Lawyers plaque. PA/Matthew Cooper. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="Default">“There are reported to be around 1,500 ‘abuse’ cases either instigated or inspired by PIL. All will now be thrown out or withdrawn.”</p> <p class="Default">Littlejohn’s last assertion was premature. Jeremy Wright, Attorney General, had already advised the government that the on-going criminal investigations couldn’t be halted, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/18/david-camerons-bid-to-shut-down-criminal-investigation-into-brit/">according to the Telegraph</a>.</p> <p class="Default">Public Interest Lawyers’ closure prompted even Theresa May, recently appointed as Prime Minister, to be “very much pleased” so the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/15/public-interest-lawyers-iraq-war-al-sweady-theresa-may-uk-troops">Guardian recorded</a>. </p> <p class="Default">Michael Fallon, Defence Secretary, said: “This is the right outcome for our armed forces, who show bravery and dedication in difficult circumstances. For too long, we’ve seen our legal system abused to impugn them falsely. We are now seeing progress and we will be announcing further measures to stamp out this practice.”</p> <p class="Default">And yet despite all the political and media pressure the Iraq allegations haven’t gone away.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2>Tomorrow, the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali and how British soldiers watched an Iraqi boy drown.</h2><hr /><p><strong><em><br /></em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la">A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq">From war to occupation in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide">Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight openJustice Access to justice Shine A Light A.T. Williams Mon, 14 Nov 2016 00:07:00 +0000 A.T. Williams 106043 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Delayed lives — the hidden misery of stateless people locked up in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/chris-nash/delayed-lives-hidden-misery-of-stateless-people-locked-up-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Alienated, homeless, denied the right to work, criminalised.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/4CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/4CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All photographs by @GregConstantine for European Network on Statelessness.</span></span></span></p><p>Peter has lived in the UK for a long time, over twenty years. Naturally, he considers this country as his home. But the government has failed to regularise his status or provide him with documentation that would safeguard his right to live, work and participate in society. Continuously denied citizenship and the right to work, he did everything he could to survive, including accepting badly paid jobs. The result? He was sent to prison, convicted of working illegally, made into a criminal simply for trying to support himself. </p> <p>After serving his sentence, Peter was moved to an immigration detention centre. For nine long months the Home Office kept him locked up while they attempted to deport him to Nigeria. By now, labelled as a criminal, and worn down by all this time in prison, Peter agreed to be ‘voluntarily’ removed from the country he called home. However, the Nigerian authorities refused to accept that he was one of their nationals.</p> <p>After his release was eventually ordered, Peter initially refused to leave the detention centre: he had nowhere to go, and viewed returning to Nigeria as his only option. Forced out of the detention centre and once again abandoned to homelessness, with no means of support, he was soon arrested and detained for another three months while the Home Office made further futile efforts to remove him. </p> <p>Where is Peter now? </p> <p>In limbo, still unable to convince the UK to provide him with a legal status, on the unreasonable grounds that he could apply for Nigerian nationality – an option he has tried and failed. Therefore, although, since April 2013 the UK has <a href="https://www.gov.uk/stay-in-uk-stateless">legislation</a> in place that can determine whether someone is stateless or not, Peter continues to experience the country in which he has lived for over 20 years, as a no man’s land. </p> <p>Peter is just one of several stateless persons interviewed for a <a href="http://www.statelessness.eu/resources/protecting-stateless-persons-arbitrary-detention-united-kingdom">new report Protecting Persons from Arbitrary Detention in the United Kingdom</a>, released today by the <a href="http://www.statelessness.eu">European Network on Statelessness</a>. Peter’s story highlights the contradictions, and failures, of laws that are well intentioned but fail so many other people like him, and which are not living up to expectations. </p> <p>How does this happen? How is it, in a fair and modern country, that Peter’s impossible situation came about, and that after 20 years living in the UK it had not been recognised that he was a stateless person? Also, even though there was legislation in place designed specifically to determine his status, why was he prevented from doing so while he was in detention? To Peter, it must have felt that the system had been designed to block him at every turn. </p> <p>This new report addresses these questions and assesses whether the new immigration rules on statelessness work as they were intended, and are capable of providing stateless persons with the protection owing to them under international law. Regrettably, in many respects, the answer is no.</p> <p>The report corroborates several failings <a href="http://d2t68d2r9artlv.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Policy-briefing-statelessness-22-September-final.pdf">identified</a> with the procedure. For example, it is clearly not fair that there is an unreasonable burden of proof on the applicant, who has to prove a ‘negative’ (often while destitute or detained). Also, why does it take up to two years for someone to receive a decision? To make matters worse, the definition in the regulations about who is excluded from being defined as a stateless person (and hence eligible for a residence permit) is unduly restrictive and runs contrary to international law. When you throw in the fact that applicants are denied free legal advice and an automatic right of appeal, it’s not surprising that so few stateless persons are able to benefit from the new procedure. That’s clearly not fair – even hardened criminals are provided with lawyers. Incredibly, the research reveals that as of April 2013 only 39 applications had been granted! (This represents approximately 5.2% of the 754 decided applications.)</p> <p>There was a common complaint from people who had been held in detention, about the enormous difficulty of accessing the existing regulation in practice. Invariably officials had tailed to consider statelessness as part of the initial decision to detain. This suggests an unsafe disconnect regarding information that should be feeding into the decision-making process. Those officials with responsibility to decide on a person’s liberty clearly need to be better trained to recognize statelessness, and thus to be able to refer cases to the proper procedure.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/2.CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/2.CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Peter’s story is not unusual. Muhammed, a Sahrawi from Algeria, is a shocking example of someone who was clearly stateless but still faced being locked up, suffering eight episodes of detention totalling four years, despite a doctor providing evidence that he was suffering from high blood pressure, cholesterol and asthma, and was wholly unsuited to detention. People whose citizenship status is more complex are even more likely to be locked up for disproportionately long periods. This is especially alarming where the inability to return is not due to their lack of cooperation but rather the refusal by another country to recognize their nationality or to provide them with documentation. </p> <p>One of the worst mistakes by the Home Office is to attribute the wrong nationality to someone, as the inevitable consequence of this can be months or years of futile back and forth with the country in question. Anthony, for example, spent 14 months in detention before being released after the Zimbabwe government refused to accept him as a national. Earlier this year Anthony was detained once again, while the Home Offices insisted on making enquiries with Nigeria, a country with which he claims to have no connection. His situation has been made worse by being separated from his wife, who is a British national and whose mental health condition has been aggravated by their dreadful predicament. And so it continues, with Okeke, who was detained for four months. Almost unbelievably, the Home Office attempted to remove him from the UK even though they had classified him as being of ‘unknown nationality’. Extraordinarily, all this happened to a man who has spent his entire life in the UK.</p> <p>To put people in detention, in preparation for removing them, when it is clear that removal proceedings are likely to fail, <a href="http://www.statelessness.eu/sites/www.statelessness.eu/files/ENS_Detention_Toolkit.pdf">violates domestic and international law</a>. Stateless migrants in this country find themselves particularly vulnerable, as the UK is the only EU country with no statutory time-limit on immigration detention. So why do it? Why detain people like Okeke when there is no chance of removing them? It is hard to avoid concluding that administrative detention is often intended as a punishment, as a deterrent. If so, this is wrong and a purposeful violation of the aim of the regulations. </p> <p>If one carefully considers Peter’s story, or Muhammed, and certainly Okeke’s, they all suffered the same consequences following their release. They could not be removed, often found themselves homeless and unable to work, and condemned to an endless limbo, excluded from regularization (under the Immigration Rules on statelessness) due to having a criminal conviction. It didn’t matter if their ‘crimes’ were related to ‘subsistence’ (for example, petty theft), ‘administrative’ (‘working illegally’) or for using a false travel document (by definition many stateless persons lack authentic documentation); as in the eyes of the law, and society, they had all been criminalised. </p> <p>What is to be done?</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/1.CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/1.CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Home Office officials responsible for deciding applications to stay in the UK legally, as a stateless person, should be more sensitive, and generous in granting protection status to individuals with criminal convictions, many of which were the result of situations of blameless hardship, of being stateless and in limbo. These officials should adopt a more rights-respecting and inclusive approach when assessing who qualifies as a stateless person. The first priority should be to protect vulnerable people, not to further punish them; an approach which would be more consistent with both the letter and the spirit of international conventions such as the 1954 Statelessness Convention. There seems little rationale or justification in leaving a small number of would-be citizens on the margins of society, with no possibility of belonging but equally no prospect of establishing a life elsewhere.</p> <p>But there is hope for those men and women who told their stories, as the UK does at least have in place a dedicated statelessness determination procedure (many countries in Europe do not have these regulations in place) even though it holds out promises that more often than not are illusory. Akram, a Palestinian from the West Bank, was one person who explained how he had managed to avail himself of protection under the Immigration Rules (despite having a criminal conviction for possessing a false document). Thankfully, he is now happily married and working as a baker, and is an optimistic example of how the law can work well if applied well. The challenge, now, is to fix the anomalies and weaknesses in the UK legislation that so often result in unfair detention or removal, and to keep to the spirit of the procedure that was designed to provide a solution for individuals who, through no fault of their own, find themselves stuck in a limbo of statelessness.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chris-nash/stateless-in-uk-amid-chaos-groundbreaking-step-forward">Stateless in the UK: amid the chaos, a groundbreaking step forward </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/kristy-belton/statelessness-as-forced-displacement">Statelessness as forced displacement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/alice-ross-patrick-galey/making-uk-citizens-non-persons">Making UK citizens non-persons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mona-kareem/we-may-be-stateless-but-we-are-not-voiceless">We may be stateless but we are not voiceless</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chris-nash/still-stateless-still-suffering-it%E2%80%99s-time-for-european-leaders-to-take-action">Still stateless, still suffering: It’s time for European leaders to take action</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Chris Nash Thu, 10 Nov 2016 00:00:20 +0000 Chris Nash 106623 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May's dangerous record on immigration https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May's time as home secretary was marked by the further marginalisation of immigrants in this society. In a diverse nation, it's worrying that such a person becomes prime minister.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/theresa may .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/theresa may .jpg" alt="Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images" title="Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images</span></span></span><span>I would like to be able to celebrate Theresa May’s departure from the Home Office. Unfortunately, she is now prime minister. What does this mean for the country? There may be no real link between her time as home secretary and her time as prime minister. After all, as prime minister she will be dealing with a range of people and policy areas that she did not deal with as home secretary. And one of her main policy areas as home secretary – immigration – may now undergo fundamental change in light of the recent referendum result. But I fear that there will be a link. Looking at her time as Home secretary, a consistent image emerges: a&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2002/oct/08/uk.conservatives2002" target="_blank">nasty</a><span>&nbsp;image.</span></p><p><span></span></p><p>Of course, many will say that if an immigration lawyer is unhappy with the home secretary, that is probably a good thing – it means that immigration is 'under control'. In fact, as we know, immigration is not 'under control' in any conventional sense: net migration is at an all-time high. But my frustration with the former home secretary is not about numbers, whether high or low. It is about an immigration system that is more and more about&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/shinealight/usman-sheikh/so-many-reasons-why-turning-landlords-into-immigration-officials" target="_blank">exploitation</a>&nbsp;and cruelty.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">But my frustration with the former home secretary is not about numbers, whether high or low. It is about an immigration system that is more and more about&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/shinealight/usman-sheikh/so-many-reasons-why-turning-landlords-into-immigration-officials" target="_blank">exploitation</a>&nbsp;and cruelty.</p><p>This matters in a prime minister. After all, you can judge a country by how it treats foreigners. But moreover, it engenders an atmosphere of fear and mistrust between those who were born in this country, and those who make it their home. We are an&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/usman-sheikh/deportation-increasingly-foreign-britain-at-war-with-itself" target="_blank">increasingly diverse</a>&nbsp;country with growing interactions between natives and foreigners, whether in the family, at work or in education. It would be nice if we could be a little more comfortable with ourselves – a little more at ease in our mixed skins. Unfortunately, there is little sign of this with our new Prime minister.<span></span><span></span></p><p>In the highly emotive area of family migration, her reforms have brought misery to many. She introduced a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/21/families-challenge-minimum-income-visa-rules-supreme-court-non-eu-partner" target="_blank">minimum income requirement</a>&nbsp;for people who want to bring their non-European partners to the UK. This has led to many divided families, forced to try to maintain ties through Skype. It is currently under appeal at the Supreme Court and the Court’s decision may provide an interesting perspective from which to judge the Prime minister’s record as Home secretary. She made it all but impossible for people to bring their non-European&nbsp;<a href="http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/high-court-challenge-of-adr-rules.html" target="_blank">elderly relatives</a>&nbsp;to the UK, a change which is also currently under appeal. In work and study, she has tried to move from long term to short term migration. Skilled workers must generally earn&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/mar/12/eu-workers-deported-earning-less-35000-employees-americans-australians" target="_blank">£35,000</a>&nbsp;to settle here. It is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/05/theresa-may-student-immigration-james-dyson" target="_blank">harder</a>&nbsp;for students to stay in the UK to work after they finish their studies. Whether or not you agree with this move, this constant coming and going of people must make integration more difficult.<span></span><span></span></p><p>Throughout, this has given the impression of a country more interested in money than love or social cohesion. This has surely been confirmed by the prime minister’s much trumpeted decision to “<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-rolls-out-the-red-carpet-for-entrepeneurs-and-investors" target="_blank">roll out the red carpet</a>” to wealthy migrants early in her time at the Home Office. She introduced accelerated settlement for those willing to invest large sums of money in the UK. Unlike those in most other immigration categories, these investors do not need to (deign to) speak English. This category has come under significant&nbsp;<a href="http://www.transparency.org.uk/publications/gold-rush-investment-visas-and-corrupt-capital-flows-into-the-uk/" target="_blank">criticism</a>&nbsp;for enabling wealthy foreign criminals to launder the proceeds of crime. Recent&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/09/wealthy-foreigners-shy-away-from-uk-as-investment-threshold-hits-2m" target="_blank">evidence</a>&nbsp;suggests that the red carpet treatment is failing: the numbers of applications has fallen sharply.<span></span><span></span></p><p>By contrast, the prime minister sought to secure her image as a tough home secretary for other, poorer criminals. In perhaps the most famous case, she was ultimately able to secure the return of Abu Qatada to Jordan. She had –<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/18/uk-european-court-ruling-sends-mixed-message-torture" target="_blank">controversially</a>&nbsp;– obtained assurances from the Jordanian authorities that they would not use evidence based on torture in his trial. However, earlier in the legal dispute, her lawyers appeared to have&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9214125/Theresa-May-refuses-to-confirm-if-Home-Office-checked-Abu-Qatada-deadline-with-European-Court.html" target="_blank">miscalculated</a>&nbsp;the deadline for him to lodge an application with the European Court of Human Rights. Also, ultimately he returned to Jordan&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10048558/Abu-Qatada-says-he-will-leave-Britain-and-it-could-be-within-months.html" target="_blank">voluntarily</a>. And in the end, he was&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/11/abu-qatada-trial-showed-uk/jordan-torture-treaty-worthless" target="_blank">acquitted</a>&nbsp;in his trial in Jordan. So the Abu Qatada case is hardly a positive story for our new Prime minister.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As home secretary, she extended her battle to other poor migrants. She set welfare payments to asylum seekers at levels that were simply vindictive.</p><p>As home secretary, she extended her battle to other poor migrants. She set welfare payments to asylum seekers at levels that were simply vindictive. The High Court&nbsp;<a href="http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/about/media_centre/our_news/1151_judicial_review_finds_home_secretary_acted_unlawfully_in_treatment_of_asylum_seekers" target="_blank">ruled</a>&nbsp;that she had acted unlawfully, but after reviewing the levels, she simply&nbsp;<a href="http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/about/media_centre/our_news/1248_home_office_announces_asylum_support_rates_will_remain_unchanged_following_review_despite_legal_challenge" target="_blank">maintained</a>&nbsp;them. She fought a&nbsp;<a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/campaigns/end-the-fast-track-to-despair/legal-challenge" target="_blank">lengthy legal battle</a>&nbsp;to defend the Government’s system for the detention of asylum seekers until the criticisms from many different parts of the judiciary simply became too strong. She recently tried to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jerome-phelps/fast-track-is-dead" target="_blank">revive</a>&nbsp;the system, but – for now – it seems that this will not happen. She was responsible for the mass removal of students after a Panorama investigation into student visa fraud. The immigration Tribunal recently strongly criticised the evidence on the basis of which many of these students were removed. There were suggestions that there would be a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-faces-parliamentary-investigation-over-flimsy-basis-for-student-deportations-a6948796.html" target="_blank">Parliamentary investigation</a>&nbsp;into this. If this happens, again, this would provide an interesting perspective on the prime minister’s time as home secretary.<span></span><span></span></p><p>Perhaps her greatest claim for praise from those seeking to help migrants would be her work on modern day slavery. She rightly described this as a scourge, “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/10470717/Theresa-May-Slaves-may-work-in-your-nail-bar-too.html" target="_blank">hiding in plain sight</a>” in our country. But I for one am not entirely convinced. I worry that the focus on this group of migrants comes from a desire to find objects of pity. This reinforces our sense of virtue, while denying the migrants all agency. There is also generally no straightforward route to settlement for migrants in this category. So our objects of pity do not have the opportunity to stick around long enough to make us question our naïve distinctions.<span></span><span></span></p><p>The clearest recent indication of her as prime minister came in her&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-s-speech-to-the-conservative-party-conference-in-full-a6681901.html" target="_blank">speech</a>&nbsp;to the Conservative Party conference last year. Quite apart from being extremely negative, it was also criticised for being “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11913927/Theresa-Mays-immigration-speech-is-dangerous-and-factually-wrong.html" target="_blank">dangerous and factually wrong</a>”. She was denounced as simply “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/immigration-theresa-may-just-turned-into-a-nasty-tory-it-aint-pretty/" target="_blank">nasty</a>”. With such a person as prime minister, I worry for our diverse nation.<span></span><span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/alina-m-ller/immigration-bill-government-side-steps-calls-for-humanitarian-balance">Immigration Bill: government side-steps calls for humanitarian balance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/immigration-detention-expensive-ineffective-and-unjust">Immigration detention: &quot;expensive, ineffective and unjust&quot;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Usman Sheikh Fri, 22 Jul 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Usman Sheikh 104174 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ghosted away: UK’s secret removal flights examined https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/ghosted-away-uk-s-secret-removal-flights-examined <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On Home Office flights private sector guards apply restraints so extreme they are very rarely used in prisons. What happened on the 24/25 May flight to Nigeria and Ghana?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/plane bus.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/plane bus.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)</span></span></span></p><p class="western">Lately one Australian family’s immigration case and prospect of forced removal from the UK made front-page news across Scottish national newspapers, was discussed in the House of Commons, picked up by <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/may/30/australian-family-in-scotland-win-reprieve-from-deportation">The Guardian</a>, The Independent, the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3618903/Hard-working-Australian-family-threatened-deportation-claim-set-fail-continue-battle-remain-UK.html">Daily Mail</a>, and BBC News — resulting in a job offer that might help keep the family here, and a crowdfunder page that has raised more than £4000. </p> <p class="western">In the same week, around 100 people were torn from their long-standing communities in the UK and forcibly removed to a country from which they fled, or hadn’t lived in for up to 20 years. Of these people, their family, their friends, their distress, the fate that awaits them, there is no public awareness, nor any media reporting. With the exception of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light at openDemocracy</a>, no journalists or media outlets picked up the multiple press releases widely issued by <a href="http://unitycentreglasgow.org/">The Unity Centre</a> in the lead up to the flight.</p> <p class="western">In the early hours of Wednesday 25 May —&nbsp;at 1am —&nbsp;a delayed private charter plane left Stansted airport, bound for Nigeria and Ghana. The UK government does not publicly reveal the location of departure (even to detainees who are set to be on the plane). The flight itself does not appear on airport flight schedules or online as a planned flight. However, we can reveal that the contracted airline is Titan Airways. </p> <p class="western">Who were the passengers? </p> <p class="western">During the previous weeks, hundreds of people with refused asylum and human rights claims were detained in preparation for the flight. We heard reports from inside the UK’s “detention estate” that around 300 people had been issued removal directions for this particular charter flight.</p><h2>Operation Majestic</h2> <p class="western">The overbooking of seats reflects the Home Office imperative to fill the flight, regardless of people’s individual cases. “Reserve” detainees go through the normal removal procedures, say their goodbyes, are kept on coaches — but don’t know whether or not they’ll be removed until after the flight has left. This practice has been condemned repeatedly by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, as <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/05/2013-Pakistan-escort-web.pdf">lacking in humanity and “unacceptable”.</a></p> <p class="western">The UK government’s policy of forcibly removing people en masse via private charter flights to Nigeria and Ghana (and sometimes Sierra Leone) goes by the code-name “Operation Majestic”.</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/just plane big.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/just plane big.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="261" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)</span></span></span></p> <p class="western">Commonly, between 60 and 80 people are accompanied by commercially contracted security guards. On the charter flight of May 24/25 this company was <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/home-office-contractors-expected-to-lie-inspection-reveals/">Tascor</a>. Standard practice is <a href="http://www.no-deportations.org.uk/">2 security guards for every detainee</a>, with no independent witnesses or monitoring groups aboard.</p> <p class="western">Between January and March 2016, 438 men and and 23 women were forcibly removed from the UK on a total of 10 charter flights, according to a Home Office response to a Freedom of Information request by John O (FOI 39552, 2 June 2016). The number of private security guards totalled 875. The destinations: Pakistan, Albania, Nigeria and Ghana.</p> <p class="western">On fewer than three flights per year, prisons inspectors are aboard. Reporting on <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/escort-and-removals-to-jamaica-24-25-march-2011/">a removal to Jamaica in 2011</a>, when there were 104 guards from the security company G4S and 35 detainees, the inspectors wrote: “the sheer numbers of staff created an inevitably intimidating atmosphere, regardless of how they conducted themselves. This effect was significantly aggravated by the loud behaviour of a few staff.” Two of the people being removed told inspectors they had lived in the UK for 27 and 36 years respectively. One woman said she had lived in the UK for 12 years and was leaving her 18-year old daughter behind.</p> <p>On a <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/detainees-under-escort-inspection-of-escort-and-removals-to-sri-lanka-6-7-december-2012-by-hm-chief-inspector-of-prisons/">removal flight to Sri Lanka</a> in December 2012, 72 guards from the security company Reliance (now called Tascor) and 3 medics escorted 29 detainees on the 19 hour journey. Prisons inspectors reported: “There were too many escort staff with little or nothing to do.” The people being removed included a person in a wheelchair who was brain damaged, and a 67 year old woman who “had boarded the flight before receiving confirmation of an injunction preventing her removal”.</p><h2>Restraints too extreme for prison</h2> <p>Reporting on a removal to Nigeria and Ghana that took place in November 2013, when there were 82 guards for 42 detainees, <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/04/nigeria-ghana-escorts-2013-rps.pdf">inspectors wrote</a>: “some ways of working had become entrenched, for which there was little justification. These included keeping handcuffs on for much longer than necessary; holding detainees by the arm in secure areas; searching in locations without any privacy; denying privacy to detainees using the toilet; and withholding facilities such as pillows, blankets and hot drinks during an overnight flight without regard to evidence of risk in the individual case. There were deficiencies in the recording and communication of information about risk, which is essential when detainees are being passed from the care of one contractor to another during a very stressful series of events.” </p> <p>Inspectors didn’t join a flight to Nigeria and Ghana again until July 2015. What had changed? &nbsp;<a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/11/Nigeria-Ghana-final-web-2015.pdf">The inspectors wrote</a>: “We repeat almost exactly the same points in this report.”&nbsp; </p> <p>They went on: “waist restraint belts had replaced handcuffs, and officers no longer routinely held detainees’ arms within secure detention centres. There was a risk that waist restraint belts, which were now embedded in practice, were being overused and applied whenever there was any ground for supposing that the person might not cooperate during the boarding of the coach or aircraft. They were used on eight detainees during this operation. When the wrists are in the close position (i.e. tight to the hips) they are almost equivalent to body belts, the most extreme and very rarely used, mechanical restraints available in prisons.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/just plane.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/just plane.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="215" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)</span></span></span></p> <p class="western">Detainees tell us that many are held in solitary confinement the night (or two) before a charter flight —perhaps an attempt by the Home Office to avoid collective resistance. Last month one person in detention awaiting forced removal on a charter flight to Pakistan told us: “Yesterday we moved to the short stay side of the centre and they closed our room door at 8pm and then didn’t open…I can’t stay one more night in that room, I am sure I will die because the room is so small and we are two boys in there.” </p> <p class="western">Detainees were packed into coaches the afternoon of Tuesday 24th May. By early evening their phones were switched off — making it difficult for detainees to contact their solicitor or support groups regarding any legal avenues still available that may stop them from being removed.</p><h2>Collective expulsion</h2> <p class="western">Those who were forcibly removed on the 24th/25th include a woman who was served with a refusal of her fresh asylum claim whilst she was waiting for the coach to arrive at Yarl’s Wood (the notorious Bedfordshire detention centre) — indicating the regular Home Office practice of preparing to remove people before their asylum claim has even been legally exhausted. She told us that she was subsequently denied access to the library by members of staff and thus was unable to pursue a judicial review to challenge the refusal of her fresh asylum claim. &nbsp;</p> <p class="western">We do not know whether a judicial review might have stopped her forced removal. The Home Office state that due to the “effort and expense” of a charter flight, a judicial review may not necessarily defer removal.</p> <p class="western">This case demonstrates how one’s nationality (identified by the Home Office) determines who is on a charter flight — regardless of the different stages that people are at within the asylum/immigration process. It challenges David Wood’s<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5374109/Asylum-airlines-your-one-way-flight-to-deportation.html"> claim</a>, asserted whilst acting as UK Border Agency Director of Enforcement, that charter flights are specifically for “difficult” individuals — raising questions about <a href="https://corporatewatch.org/sites/default/files/Collective-Expulsion-report.pdf">collective expulsion</a>.</p> <p class="western">Others removed on the charter flight included a man from the LGBT community, who was forced to leave behind his partner in the UK, and who told us he faces violence and imprisonment upon return to Ghana. </p> <p class="western">Unable to access the legal surgery inside detention before his removal date due to extremely <a href="https://detentioninquiry.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/bail-for-immigration-detainees-access-to-legal-advice-bid1.pdf">long waiting times</a>, he was forced to represent himself, not knowing the scale or depth of evidence needed to substantiate his claim. </p> <p class="western">Another man on the charter flight had come to the UK when he was 14 — but the Home Office failed to recognise him as a dependent of his mother (who now has British citizenship). And so 14 years later he has been forcibly removed from her, his siblings and long-term partner, to a country which he has no family in or memories of.</p> <p class="western">When asked for the number of passengers and reserves on the charter flight, the Home Office responded: “A removal flight to Nigeria and Ghana went ahead on 24 May as planned. We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”</p><p class="western">We do not know what forms of restraint were used on this flight, whether people were treated courteously, or, as has happened on previous flights, subjected to coarse language, excessive physical restraints and racist abuse. This is because there were no independent witnesses aboard and we have lost contact with the people being removed. It is particularly difficult to maintain contact after removal: upon arrival, many people are destitute or forced to go into hiding.</p> <p class="western">Detainees are calling for raised public awareness of the use of charter flights. One person who was deported from the UK last year told us: “It’s about 90 per cent of us that don't want to go, the other 10 per cent don't want to go either but they are tired of being humiliated so they say they are ready.”</p><hr /><p><strong>For more information on mass deportation charter flights, </strong><a href="http://unitycentreglasgow.org/mass-deportation-charter-flight-to-nigeria-and-ghana-set-for-may-24th/"><strong>see here</strong></a><strong>.</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="western"><strong>To get in touch,</strong> contact The Unity Centre at <a href="mailto:unitycentremedia@gmail.com">unitycentremedia@gmail.com</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/dozens-of-fathers-among-migrants-to-be-forcibly-deported-tonight">Dozens of fathers among migrants to be forcibly deported tonight</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/woman-stands-naked-on-airport-runway-takes-overdose">Woman stands naked on airport runway, takes overdose</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/jimmy-mubenga-and-shame-of-british-airways">Jimmy Mubenga and the shame of British Airways</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Lotte Lewis Mon, 06 Jun 2016 14:43:11 +0000 Lotte Lewis 102724 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Regardless of government orders and promises to Parliament, UK property company Jomast carries on putting asylum tenants at risk.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SAFE AS HOUSES.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SAFE AS HOUSES.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="229" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Safe as houses: red door, repainted door, arson attack door, Friday 20 May 2016</span></span></span></p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Asylum seekers living in the north east of England report that they have suffered racist abuse, thanks to their landlord making them an easy target by painting their door red. </p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Their landlord is Stuart Monk, owner of Jomast, one of <a href="http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/who-jomast-urban-regeneration-specialist-10760920">Teesside’s most powerful companies</a>, a company which earned the Monk family £175 million last year.&nbsp;Jomast is the sole sub-contractor for G4S in the North East of England. G4S was given part of the Home Office £620m UK wide COMPASS asylum housing contract in 2012.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Jomast’s practice of painting asylum seekers’ doors red in Middlesbrough and Teesside was exposed in a &nbsp;<a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">front page story in The Times</a> “Apartheid on Streets of Britain” on 20 January this year. James Brokenshire, the Home Office minister responsible for the COMPASS contracts immediately went to the House of Commons <a href="http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/12cab491-2c5b-4390-80a2-2c4a9e4b03c9?in=12:56:39">and assured MPs</a> that there would be an inquiry into Jomast’s asylum housing and that the doors would be repainted. Jomast boss Stuart Monk said on 26 January, when he was grilled by the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, it would be done in “two weeks”. </p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">That hasn’t happened.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">At dawn on Friday 20 May Esmé Madill,&nbsp;a volunteer working with asylum seekers, received a message from James (not his real name), an Iraqi asylum seeker who had fled Isis in Mosul and was now in a Jomast asylum house in Stockton-On-Tees. His house had a red door.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">James said that “racists at 3.40 a.m. this morning had banged on our door”. The gang were part of a family who, James said, lived “near our house and are very racist, they tried many, many times to bother us because we are asylum seekers.” James said that a friend, a refugee from Darfur, had his house windows broken by stones from the family. “He complained five times about this English family but the police did nothing.”</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">James finished his message: “I am so worried about this issue, it’s awful, because we fled from Isis to seek sanctuary here, not to face racism, the Jomast door is still painted a red colour.”</p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/door pre copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/door pre copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Red door, Friday 3.15pm</span></span></span></p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">And here it is (left).</p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Esmé Madill, who had for months received reports of racist attacks and verbal abuse, rang Barry Jobson of Jomast on Friday afternoon and told him about the latest reports and demanded James and the asylum seekers in his house should be moved from the area.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">In a follow up&nbsp;e-mail Esmé gave specific examples of the attacks and harassment: “The tenants have called the police on numerous occasions after local residents have: thrown stones at them, breaking windows at the property and hitting the residents; called them abusive names; dumped rubbish at the property and tampered with the keyhole. Recently one resident was accosted for wearing Islamic dress and another was followed, while on his way to his GP, by two youths throwing stones. The police have fitted a camera outside the property but this has not led to any reduction in the racist abuse.”</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Esmé wrote: “The property continues to have a front door painted red, marking it out as a property managed by Jomast and likely to house asylum seekers. I am copying this email to G4S, as on 25 January almost five months ago <a href="http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/robust-system-place-check-asylum-10787801">Juliet Halstead head of housing at G4S</a> &nbsp;said that these red doors would be painted over ‘as soon as possible’”.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Around 3.30 p.m. on the same afternoon, Friday 20 May, Jomast workers arrived at James’s house and started repainting his door. Police also arrived at the property.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">A few minutes later Barry Jobson replied to Esmé stating that Jomast were “not aware of any racial abuse” at (that address) and that “the Police have not raised any issues in respect of (that street)”.</p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Here (right) is the repainted door.</p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/door post copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/door post copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Repainted door, Friday around 4.20pm</span></span></span></p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Just after 4 p.m. Nicola Broughton, G4S senior incident control officer responded to Esmé. “I have investigated the claims made and I can confirm that our records show that G4S also have not received any reports of anti-social behaviour or hate crimes in relation to (the address).”</p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Within hours there was an arson attack on the nearby house occupied by Darfuri refugees.</p><p>When I spoke to Esmé about the events in Stockton she said: “They misled us. Both Jomast and G4S said that they were going to repaint the red doors and they didn’t do it. Their failure to carry out their promises to Parliament has meant that James and other vulnerable people in their home with a red door have been physically attacked, insulted and made very afraid.”</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/burnt door copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/burnt door copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arson attack door, Friday 11.48pm</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest">Red doors for asylum seekers: MPs grill one of Britain’s richest landlords</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-made-asylum-seekers-targets-for-abuse-deliberate">Red doors made asylum seekers targets for abuse. Deliberate?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight G4S: Securing whose world? Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Sun, 22 May 2016 23:00:05 +0000 John Grayson 102310 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On Connor Sparrowhawk’s avoidable death https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/on-connor-sparrowhawk-s-avoidable-death <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">A leaked document reveals that an NHS England Trust knew of failings 10 months before a young man died in its care.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/connorsparrowhawk_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/connorsparrowhawk_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Body">Tuesday morning brought fresh shock to the family of Connor Sparrowhawk, a quirky, funny young man who drowned following a seizure in a bath at an NHS facility nearly three years ago.</p> <p class="Body">On Tuesday Connor’s mother, Sara Ryan, received a copy of a leaked NHS document, dated August 2012, that noted failings at the facility, failings that might have set alarm bells ringing a full 10 months before Connor’s death.</p> <p class="Body">Late last year an inquest jury at Oxford Coroner’s court determined that Connor, who had learning disabilities and epilepsy, had drowned following a seizure in the bath at the Southern Health NHS Trust unit knows as STATT (short-term assessment and treatment team) in Slade House, at Headington, near Oxford. He was 18 years old.</p> <p class="Body">The jury said that Connor’s death, on 4 July 2013, had been “contributed to by neglect”, that there was a lack of training and leadership at the unit and poor communication between staff and the family.</p> <p class="Body">Connor was known to be epileptic, and his mother had warned staff —&nbsp;in writing — that he had an injury to his tongue that suggested a recent seizure. Yet Connor was allowed to bathe unsupervised and behind a closed door. (A support worker at Connor’s inquest said she used a key to open the door which suggests it was locked.)</p> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Justicequilt-6.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Justicequilt-6.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Connor with his stepdad, Rich, and brothers Owen and Tom 2 weeks before his death (Sara Ryan)</span></span></span></p><p class="Body">The document leaked this week, dated 22nd August 2012 and headed “Quality and Safety Review Update”, suggests that Southern Health NHS Foundation was aware of failings at the unit 10 months before Connor died and three months before they officially took over the provision in November 2012.</p> <p class="Body">Among detailed criticisms of the short term assessment unit, the document notes a “lack of clarity” in patient care plans. It was “difficult to track care for patients, identify the reason for admission”.</p> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/3southernhealthconnorcollage.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/3southernhealthconnorcollage.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Extracts from document dated 22 August 2012</span></span></span>The move of information onto an electronic record system (known as RiO) was “limited”. The document identified “a gap between what is up to date in paper form and what is now being recorded on the RiO.”</p> <p class="Body">(Or rather, it noted: there “seems to be a gap”. Either there was or there wasn’t a gap. The lack of clarity and rigour in the document itself is revealing).</p> <p class="Body">Clinical team meetings, held each week, lacked information. Staff were aware that there had been an audit of care plans on the RiO system, but “they were not aware of any results or action plans to make improvements”.</p> <p class="Body">There were concerns about cleanliness, maintenance and repairs, particularly in the bathrooms “where floors, tiles and units are worn or damaged.” And: “Some items such as broken floor tiles would represent a risk, particularly if a patient might self harm.” </p> <p class="Body">Connor’s brother Tom, now 16 years old, read the leaked document on Tuesday. He said: “This latest news is really sad. It’s not like they were crap because they didn’t check what they were doing. They checked and they didn’t care.”</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/68257_10151094198400957_865874159_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/68257_10151094198400957_865874159_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Connor and his brother Tom (Sara Ryan)</span></span></span></p> <p class="Body">This is only the latest in a series of shocking discoveries for Connor’s family, who were initially informed by Southern Health that he had died of “natural causes”.</p> <p class="Body">Connor’s mother Sara Ryan has recorded <a href="https://mydaftlife.com/category/laughing-boy-tales/">on her blog</a> that during the inquest “the big shocker (and there were several)” was the revelation on Day 4 that a patient had died in 2006 in the same bath in which Connor drowned.</p> <p class="Body">Ryan wrote: “The Responsible Clinician let it be known, through her counsel, that she had been actively discouraged by members of . .&nbsp; senior management from raising the issue of this earlier death. In the same bath . . . Ground spinning stuff.”</p> <p>In the aftermath of Connor’s death, and in response to his family’s relentless campaigning, NHS England commissioned an audit of deaths at Southern Health from the audit, tax and advisory firm Mazars. </p> <p>Their report, published in December last year (there’s a PDF <a href="https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2015/12/mazars-rep.pdf">here</a>), found that Southern had failed to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths, and that the likelihood of a death being investigated depended heavily on the patient’s profile. Deaths of learning disabled people were least likely to be investigated. When investigations <em>were</em> carried out, said Mazars: “There was a very poor quality of written investigations at all stages.”</p> <p>Mazars wrote: “A culture across the Trust has developed that means there was an absence of mortality review in Mental Health and Learning Disability which results in lost learning, a lack of transparency when care and delivery problems occur as well as a lack of assurance to families and commissioners that a death was not avoidable and has been properly investigated.”</p> <p>The morning after Connor’s death, according to an internal document dated 5 July 2013, Southern Health took the trouble to note “potential media interest” in the incident. That document holds yet another disturbing revelation. The Trust that so thoroughly failed to safeguard Connor Sparrowhawk had, for months, devoted time and resources to monitoring his mother’s blog.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Cf7zRVyWwAA6J0o.jpg-large blue.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Cf7zRVyWwAA6J0o.jpg-large blue.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;</p> <h2>Notes</h2> <ul><li>• Sara Ryan blogged throughout Connor’s time at Slade House and has continued to do so since Connor’s death.&nbsp;<a href="http://mydaftlife.wordpress.com/">Here is her blog</a>.</li><li>• Connor Sparrowhawk’s family is supported by the charity <a href="http://www.inquest.org.uk/">INQUEST</a>, and represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Charlotte Haworth of Bindmans solicitors.</li><li>• Details of the Care Quality Commission inspection report of November 2013 can be found&nbsp;<a href="https://mydaftlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/cqc-slade-house-final-report-1.pdf">here</a>.</li><li>• The Verita report, commissioned by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which confirms&nbsp;that Connor’s death could have been prevented,&nbsp;can be found&nbsp;<a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news/report-into-death-sparrowhawk/">here</a>, along with a statement of regret from Southern Health’s chief executive Katrina Percy. (February 2014)</li><li>• The Mazars review: Independent review of deaths of people with a Learning Disability or Mental Health problem in contact with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust April 2011 to March 2015 <a href="https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2015/12/mazars-rep.pdf">PDF here</a>. (December 2016)</li></ul> <p class="Body">&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/imogen-tyler/connor-sparrowhawk-erosion-of-accountability-in-nhs">Connor Sparrowhawk: the erosion of accountability in the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/sara-ryan/ministry-of-justice-says-you-don-t-need-lawyer-at-inquest-trust-state">Ministry of Justice says you don’t need a lawyer at an Inquest. Trust the State</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/uk-government-s-inversion-of-accountability">The UK government’s inversion of accountability</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/human-rights-at-government-s-discretion">Human rights — at the government’s discretion </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Wed, 13 Apr 2016 23:00:26 +0000 Clare Sambrook 101354 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The UK government’s inversion of accountability https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/frances-webber/uk-government-s-inversion-of-accountability <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What to make of a government that increasingly excuses its actions from legal accountability while demanding more and more accountability from citizens?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Conservative party website.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Conservative party website.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="202" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative Party website)</span></span></span></p><p>What does democratic accountability entail? At a minimum, we expect our government to comply with fundamental human rights norms and with the rule of law, to take responsibility for its actions and offer redress to those adversely affected, through the courts. But David Cameron’s government is changing the meaning of accountability. It is increasingly treating compliance with international legal norms and human rights as optional. It is systematically attacking the mechanisms of legal accountability, through legal aid cuts, removal of appeals, hiking court fees and even by vilifying human rights lawyers. While seeking to loosen, dilute or remove mechanisms of redress for violations, it is demanding more and more accountability from citizens – not just in terms of our own actions being policed more intensively, but also forcing us to become involved in the policing and monitoring of others.</p> <h2><strong>Human rights norms optional</strong></h2> <p>In October 2015, the ministerial code was amended to remove references to ministers’ obligations to comply with international law when carrying out their duties. This quiet change, which the government insists will make no difference in practice, seems to come from the same approach to government which underlay the justice ministry’s 2014 proposal to make the European Convention on Human Rights ‘advisory only’: the idea that government compliance with international human rights norms it has signed up to is optional.</p> <p>So we should not be surprised at the announcement on 7 March that UK troops are to help <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/07/uk-military-to-join-nato-refugee-patrols-in-aegean">intercept and return</a> refugees trying to reach Europe from Turkey – actions denounced a few years ago by the <a href="https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/commission-refugee-push-backs-are-illegal/">EU Commission</a> and by the <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2012/02/italy-historic-european-court-judgment-upholds-migrants-rights/">European Court of Human Rights</a> as ‘collective expulsions’ violating EU and international human rights law. The week before, home secretary Theresa May <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/27/theresa-may-criticised-for-compassion-quota-in-asylum-strategy">announced</a> a ‘compassion quota’ which would limit numbers of refugees accepted outside official resettlement programmes and possibly deny access to refugee determination procedures to overstaying students and foreign national offenders – measures which would breach the Refugee Convention. It appears that the government, having realised that repealing human rights laws would be too fraught with political and legal difficulties, has decided simply to ignore them when they interfere with policy objectives. Whether in the field of foreign policy, arms sales, business operations abroad or refugee reception, the government has sought to avoid international legal obligations, or dilute them by re-interpretation.<a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Credit-Dasa-Raimanova-Docs-not-Cops.jpg"></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Credit-Dasa-Raimanova-Docs-not-Cops.jpg"></a></p> <p>The UK is of course not the only European state seeking to evade international obligations towards refugees, nor the only EU state to treat rescue, decent reception and treatment of refugees as a ‘pull factor’. But the UK’s island status has left it largely unaffected by the surge in refugee numbers across Europe over the past year. This renders more shameful the Home Office’s refusal to participate in the EU’s inadequate reallocation scheme, or to contemplate a change in the Dublin regulation which would require the UK to take a fairer share of asylum seekers, or even to take responsibility for the hundreds of children stuck in the Calais camps or risking their lives to join family members in the UK. Since being ordered to by a court in a <a href="http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKUT/IAC/2016/61.html">test case</a>, the Home Office has brought just a dozen or so children and one vulnerable adult from northern France to the UK.</p> <p>British foreign policies have, according to many commentators, helped to create the refugee crisis. But far from taking responsibility, the Foreign Office is actively downgrading the role of human rights in foreign policy, systematically subordinating them to trade and security concerns according to the UK director of Human Rights Watch, David Mepham in evidence to the <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/the-foreign-and-commonwealth-offices-administration-and-funding-of-its-human-rights-work-overseas/oral/29524.pdf">Foreign Affairs Committee</a>. </p> <p>And while the European Parliament voted for an EU-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia because of its bombing of Yemen, the prime minister was celebrating Britain’s <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/25/david-cameron-brilliant-uk-arms-exports-saudi-arabia-bae">‘brilliant’ arms sales</a> to Saudi Arabia — a breach of the Arms Trade Treaty signed by the UK in 2014, according to Amnesty International’s <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/the-foreign-and-commonwealth-offices-administration-and-funding-of-its-human-rights-work-overseas/oral/29524.pdf">Kate Allen</a>. Some of the world’s most authoritarian regimes are&nbsp;welcomed to the <a href="https://www.caat.org.uk/issues/arms-fairs/security-and-policing">Security and Policing</a> arms fair, organised by the Home Office together with the arms industry’s trade body ADS. Meanwhile, Amnesty International <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/sites/default/files/uk_ncp_complaints_handling_full_report_lores_0.pdf">reports</a> that the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ National Contact Point, which monitors compliance with OECD guidelines on (<em>inter alia</em>) human rights by multinational corporations operating abroad, is systematically letting multinationals including G4S and mining corporations off the hook.</p> <h2><strong>Legal redress curtailed</strong></h2> <p>Amnesty’s <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/united-kingdom/report-united-kingdom/">annual report</a> on the UK for 2015-16 documents concerns raised by the UN Human Rights Committee on the independence and impartiality of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which was tasked with investigating UK complicity in torture, after its failure to pursue the hobbled <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/06/gibson-inquiry-rendition-david-cameron-uk-torture">Gibson inquiry’s</a> interim conclusions on British involvement in rendition and support for torture. </p> <p>Meanwhile, the government continues its fight to prevent claims about British complicity in unlawful rendition from being heard in court at all. In November the Supreme Court heard the government’s appeal against a ruling that Libyan dissidents kidnapped and returned to Gaddafi’s dungeons had a right to a hearing in a UK court. But even if the case does get heard, the plaintiffs are likely to be shut out from much of the evidence, under the secret evidence provisions of the 2013 Justice and Security Act, condemned in a <a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2015/01/19/european-parliament-criticises-uk-courts-secret-evidence/">report</a> for the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee as a threat to the rule of law.</p> <p>The government’s attempts to curtail legal redress for victims of human rights abuses by British soldiers in Iraq have taken a different form. </p> <p>Although the Ministry of Defence has so far paid out <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3372879/Payouts-Afghans-Iraqis-total-25m-5-800-claims-countries-result-military-action.html">around £20 million in compensation</a> to Iraqi civilians in settlement of 323 claims of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and unlawful detention (leaving over 600 civil claims and 1,400 related cases of judicial review pending), the MoD and the prime minister have <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-camerons-attack-on-war-crimes-industry-rejected-by-lawyers-a6828476.html">publicly vilified</a> the lawyers involved in the cases. Another tactic to stop the cases reaching court has been to cut off payment for them, through curtailing ‘No win no fee’ agreements and imposing a residence test for legal aid, which denies legal aid to anyone without one year’s lawful residence in the UK. The High Court ruled that, since access to justice is a fundamental right, and ‘he who is subject to English law is entitled to its protection’, the residence test unlawfully discriminated against foreigners. The Court of Appeal <a href="http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/legal-aid-residence-test-ruled-lawful/5052468.fullarticle">reversed</a> the ruling, and the issue is currently before the Supreme Court.</p> <p>Apart from cutting legal aid, other ways in which the government has sought to restrict access to the courts for those without ample means include pushing up court fees, in some cases <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/576/article/2/made">up to £10,000</a>, tightening rules for judicial review and abolishing immigration appeals except those raising asylum or human rights claims.</p> <p>In the fields of asylum support and immigration detention, the lack of accountability is particularly striking, as even successful legal challenges result in no change to policy. A successful judicial review in 2014 of the home secretary’s freezing of asylum support for three years at an unliveable amount resulted in a new decision, but <a href="http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/about/media_centre/our_news/1248_home_office_announces_asylum_support_rates_will_remain_unchanged_following_review_despite_legal_challenge">no increase</a> – and since then, the rate for children has been slashed, and the Immigration Bill proposes to remove support from most refused asylum seeking families, and to abolish the right of appeal against refusal or withdrawal of support (which had a success rate of over 60 percent). Similarly, despite <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/a-crisis-of-harm">six judicial rulings since 2011</a> that detention has amounted to inhuman treatment for particularly vulnerable immigration detainees, millions of pounds paid out to hundreds of detainees for unlawful detention, a strongly worded all-party parliamentary group <a href="http://detentioninquiry.com/report/">report</a>,&nbsp;a Westminster Hall <a href="http://detentioninquiry.com/">vote by MPs</a>&nbsp;and a House of Lords vote,&nbsp;the government sets its face against curtailing the use of immigration detention or imposing a statutory time limit. </p> <p>And despite the&nbsp;<a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/further-defeat-for-government-over-fast-track-asylum-process">suspension</a> of the ‘detained fast track’ for asylum seekers following court rulings that the speed of decisions and appeals made it so unfair as to be unlawful, and the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/490782/52532_Shaw_Review_Accessible.pdf">Shaw review</a> which called for a complete ban on the detention of pregnant asylum seekers and a much-reduced use of detention for others, survivors of torture, trafficking and other ill-treatment continue to be detained.</p> <h2><strong>Dissent stifled</strong></h2> <p>Political accountability too has been attacked, as charities and voluntary sector organisations have seen their freedom to criticise government policy limited by restrictions brought in through the 2014 <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/4/resources">Lobbying Act</a>. This was followed up in February 2016 by a Cabinet Office fiat that all organisations receiving government funding are to be <a href="http://thirdforcenews.org.uk/tfn-news/leading-charities-join-to-oppose-government-gagging-order">forbidden</a> from criticising the government. The critical voice of the Third Sector, vital for revealing and correcting abuses and excesses, is being muffled, if not silenced.</p> <h2><strong>More and more policing</strong></h2> <p>At the same time as the government seeks to reduce its own accountability, it makes more and more demands on its citizens, in a trend that has been growing for decades but is now accelerating to an extraordinary extent. Citizens must submit passively to more and more policing: of their bodies, through scans and searches, biometric controls and CCTV; their vehicles, through automated number-plate recognition (ANPR); their communications, through ‘bulk interception’, data retention and mining; their opinions and associations, to ensure they are not ‘extremist’. Proof of identity and of lawful status is required to receive hospital treatment; to get a job or enrol in higher education; to get married; to claim any welfare benefit, or social or emergency housing; to rent a room or a flat from a private landlord; and under the Immigration Bill going through parliament, to get a driving licence or to open and retain a bank account. Under the Bill, designed to embed a ‘hostile environment’ for the undocumented, drivers must submit to being stopped not for alcohol consumption but to prove lawful status in the UK, to avoid arrest, and confiscation of their vehicle.</p> <p>And it is not just police and immigration officers who police migrants. Staff in hospitals, in local authorities, universities and colleges, prospective employers in the private, voluntary and public sectors, bank staff and landlords, as well as road haulage contractors, train, airline and shipping operators have all been conscripted into immigration control, with varying degrees of coercion, in a process which is now more or less taken for granted.</p> <p>The penalisation of carriers who unwittingly bring ‘inadequately documented’ migrants into the UK is decades old. Now, the government seeks to increase penalties from £2,000 to £7,000 per passenger. But why should truck drivers, train operators, shipping companies and airlines be regulated and penalised for something which, unlike say passenger safety, is extraneous to their business? Not to mention that the treatment of people as contraband offers disturbing echoes of the treatment of slaves as cargo in earlier centuries.</p> <p>Employer sanctions have been used for twenty years to enforce policies restricting rights to work for asylum seekers and migrants. Now, fines are set to double and prison sentences to increase from two to five years for employers hiring undocumented workers. The Immigration Bill contains powers to revoke licenses, to close temporarily businesses employing unauthorised workers, or put them under ‘special measures’ with periodic Home Office inspections. But why should employers be responsible for the immigration status of their employees? And why should this be a higher priority than paying the minimum wage or providing decent and safe conditions? Enforcement of minimum wage and health and safety protections is inadequate and underfunded, and the power of unions to protect workers’ rights is undermined by legislation to restrict trades union activity and rights to take industrial action which violates ILO Conventions as well as human rights law.</p> <p>These penalties for carriers and employers of undocumented people are enshrined in EU law. But the UK has gone further down the road of co-opting its citizens into immigration policing than most European countries.</p> <p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Home-Office2.jpeg"></a></p> <p>Universities and colleges have for several years been required to police their international students’ enrolment, attendance and performance for the Home Office, on pain of losing the right to enrol them. Marriage registrars have since 2002 been under a duty to notify the Home Office of any suspicious proposed marriages (where one party is a non-EU national who may be entering the marriage for immigration purposes). Now, private landlords, who are free to charge what they like and whose freedom to evict tenants is only lightly regulated, can be fined up to £3,000 per occupant for renting property to those without a right to stay in the country. The Immigration Bill proposes even harsher penalties, including sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment for knowingly renting to undocumented migrants.</p> <p>Hospitals, local authority housing and social service departments, banks – all must check immigration status before providing their services. In all these ways, citizens, in their capacity as employers, higher education providers, landlords, health professionals, bank or financial service workers, marriage registrars, transport workers, are expected to be accountable to the state for policing migrants, and are required to be so on pain of penalty. Since rights to work, to housing and health care are all enshrined in international human rights law, these provisions in fact coerce citizens’ compliance with violations of human rights, sometimes (in the case of employers and landlords) on pain of criminal penalties. </p> <p>The duties of health professionals, employers and landlords, unlike marriage registrars and colleges, are to deny jobs and services to the undocumented, and do not extend to denunciation. But many workers in these fields may not appreciate the distinction, and it may be that they account for the bulk of the <a href="http://icinspector.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/An-inspection-of-the-Intelligence-Management-System-FINAL-WEB.pdf">75,000 allegations</a> added to the Home Office’s online Intelligence Management System in 2013. If not, the volume of denunciations suggests that the poisonous climate engendered by the unremitting scapegoating of migrants, and undocumented migrants in particular, has fed a public appetite. An official government website encourages citizens to inform on undocumented migrants, and supplies various ways of doing so anonymously, by phone or online. It advises “in an emergency, dial 999 and ask for the police” — suggesting that being undocumented may be as inherently threatening as waving a gun.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/report an immigration crime.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/report an immigration crime.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="235" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Migration is not the only field where citizens are encouraged to inform on each other. In the field of welfare benefits, similar vilification of claimants has led to an even greater volume of benefit fraud allegations, with more than 1.6 million denunciations by members of the public between 2010 and 2015, of which, according to the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/27/false-benefit-fraud-allegations"><em>Observe</em></a><em>r</em>, 85% were unfounded. (The proportion of unfounded ‘illegal immigrant’ allegations is unknown.)</p> <h2><strong>Policing ‘pre-crime’</strong></h2> <p>That statistic of 85% is fairly close to the <a href="https://yahyabirt1.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/channel-referrals-are-shrouded-in-too-much-secrecy-we-need-better-figures-and-more-transparency-and-accountability/">80</a>%&nbsp;of referrals to the counter-terrorism programme, Channel, rejected as unfounded between 2006 and 2013. But since July 2015, such referrals form part of a new policing duty to which citizens are subject. Teachers and university lecturers, health and social workers, local authority workers, even early years and childcare providers, must under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 “have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn in to terrorism.” Statutory guidance makes it clear that this means (amongst other things) spotting those who might be potential terrorists (according to extremely broad criteria) and reporting them to a police-dominated panel, <em>Channel</em>, which is entitled to demand information on them from partner agencies in order to decide on ‘pre-crime interventions’. Those professionals who fail to comply with the Prevent duty can be made subject to mandatory orders compelling compliance, and in the final analysis could be sent to prison for contempt. But the government is unlikely to want or need to resort to such draconian enforcement, given that for most of those under the new duty will comply – in fact over-comply – for fear of losing their job. Since most professionals have no idea what they’re looking for, and the guidance is so vague as to be almost totally subjective and indicates that if in doubt, refer on a ‘precautionary basis’, it is no surprise that those referred to the Channel panel are disproportionately Muslim, or that such a high proportion of referrals are unfounded.</p><p>Now that monitoring obligations have been imposed on education, welfare and health professionals among others, extreme concern has been voiced by <a href="https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/prevent-strategy-%E2%80%98teachers-aren%E2%80%99t-counter-terrorism-experts-and-don">teachers</a>, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/feb/07/anti-terror-laws-academic-debate-oxford-college-ken-macdonald-prevent-strategy-university">university</a> and <a href="http://feweek.co.uk/2015/09/21/damned-if-you-report-damned-if-you-dont-prevent">college</a> heads, <a href="http://simonhooper.com/2015/09/20/toddlers-targeted-by-uk-1984-style-anti-terror-laws/">child care</a> and <a href="http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2015/08/25/idea-social-workers-can-predict-will-become-terrorists-science-fiction/">social workers</a>, <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/NHS%20prevent%20extremism">health professionals</a> – in fact representatives of all those tasked with the new duty, as well as by lawyers concerned with counter-terrorism including the UK’s own “counter-terrorism watchdog”&nbsp;<a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uk-watchdog-calls-review-government-counter-extremism-policy-970029054">David Anderson QC</a>. The scope of the duty, how it is being interpreted, its impact on the way professionals comply with their own codes of conduct, on the rights of those affected, and on the relationship of trust between the professionals and the children, young persons and families with whom they work, have all been <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/an-open-discussion-about-counter-radicalisation-measures-in-schools-should-be-welcomed/">questioned</a>.&nbsp;As Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock point out, it goes further: the whole purpose of education in particular is subverted by the ‘inversion’ whereby “instead of working with students to train their critical and analytical lens on the state and societies that shape their lives – to foster the ‘healthy doubt … which is the best safeguard against dogmatism and acceptance of authoritarianism …’ the anti-radicalisation movement asks educators to work hand in glove with the state security apparatus to train their analytical lens on students themselves”.*</p><p>Although, in relation to children, the duty is described in terms of ‘safeguarding’, it is apparent that no thought has been given and no responsibility taken for the impact of intervention on children, young people and their parents, nor to the impact on the professionals responsible for delivering the duties.</p> <p>As educationalist Bill Bolloten has noted, “It is a new and dangerous step for schools to include children’s radical political views and expressions of dissent as part of their safeguarding provisions.”&nbsp;</p><p>Perhaps it is time we asked what kind of society we are morphing into, which demands that citizens rigorously police our own and others’ speech, conduct and associations. It is not intuitively obvious that democratic states should require citizens and civil society to participate in policing, whether of national security or of immigration. How have we allowed it to happen, that so many of civil society’s institutions have been co-opted and conscripted in a war against ‘extremism’ and/ or irregular migration? And what can we do to reverse it?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>* See Sukarieh and Tannock, ‘The deradicalisation of education: terror, youth and the assault on learning’, in <em>Race &amp; Class</em> 57:4, Apr-Jun 2016, p29.&nbsp;</p><p>This piece was first published <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-inversion-of-accountability/">here</a> by the Institute of Race Relations. Links to related IRR articles follow below. A shorter version of this article was published in the London Review of Books (Vol 38, No. 7, 2016). View <a href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n07/frances-webber/short-cuts">here</a>. </p> <p>IRR report:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/deaths-of-europes-unwanted-and-unnoticed-migrants-exposed/"><em>Unwanted, unnoticed: an audit of 160 asylum and immigration related deaths in Europe</em></a></p> <p>IRR briefing paper:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/publications/issues/driven-to-desperate-measures-2006-2010/"><em>Driven to Desperate Measures: 2006-2010</em></a></p> <p>IRR discussion paper: <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/entitlement-and-belonging-social-restructuring-and-multicultural-britain/"><em>Entitlement and belonging</em>:&nbsp;<em>social restructuring and multicultural Britain</em></a></p> <p>IRR briefing paper:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/accelerated-removals/"><em>Accelerated removals: a study of the human cost of EU deportation policies, 2009-2010</em></a></p> <p>IRR report:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/publications/issues/the-deportation-machine-europe-asylum-and-human-rights/"><em>The deportation machine: Europe, asylum and human rights</em></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/human-rights-at-government-s-discretion">Human rights — at the government’s discretion </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/frances-webber/farewell-magna-carta-counterterrorism-and-security-bill">Farewell Magna Carta: the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/chapter-two-dodgy-daves-referendum-deal">Dodgy Dave&#039;s referendum deal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/connor-johnston/absurdity-of-mr-grayling-s-residence-test">The absurdity of Mr Grayling’s residence test</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-texts-expose-anti-migrant-british-policy-to-world">&#039;Go Home&#039; texts expose anti-migrant British policy to the world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight openJustice Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Frances Webber Tue, 12 Apr 2016 18:32:08 +0000 Frances Webber 101318 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Remembering Sarah Reed https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/wasi-daniju-rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/remembering-sarah-reed <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Beaten by a Metropolitan police officer in 2012. Found dead in a prison cell in 2016. Sarah Reed, a black woman, mother, daughter, sister, whose smile could light up a room.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/wasidaniju_11.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/wasidaniju_11.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Demonstration, HMP Holloway, 8 February 2016. Images by Wasi Daniju. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>On Monday night hundreds of people gathered outside Holloway Prison in North London to mourn the death of Sarah Reed, a young black woman whose assault at the hands of a Metropolitan police officer made <a href="http://www.channel4.com/news/policeman-gets-community-service-for-assault-on-woman-video-james-kiddie-video">headlines</a> two years ago.</p> <p>Sarah, aged 32, was found dead in her cell at Holloway Prison on 11 January. In October last year Sarah told her family that she was a victim of attempted rape whilst on a secure ward at Maudsley Hospital in South London, and that she fought back. Sarah was charged with assault and remanded to prison, where she died. She is survived by a teenage daughter. </p> <p>Her death first came to public attention after the publication on 2 February of a <a href="http://leejasper.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/sarah-reid-black-woman-victim-of.html">blog</a> by the social activist Lee Jasper which detailed the harrowing events of Sarah’s life. According to Jasper’s blog, based on an interview with&nbsp;Sarah’s&nbsp;family, her problems began in 2003 after the death of her six-month-old baby daughter.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/wasidaniju_4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/wasidaniju_4.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="338" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>WASI DANIJU</span></span></span></p><p>Her brother Anthony Reed is quoted in a&nbsp;<a href="http://voice-online.co.uk/article/prison-death-victim-sarah-reed-laid-rest-today">news report</a>&nbsp;by the Voice newspaper as saying: “To the outside world she put on a brave face but actually in reality she had internalised her grief. She spent the next 12 years of her life facing many ups and down. In good times she always brightened up the room she entered with her big smile and infectious laugh.”</p><p>In 2012 Sarah was attacked by then Metropolitan police officer James Kiddie, who dragged her by her hair, punched her repeatedly in the face and sat on her. His actions were <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpvHwtDThqI#action=share">caught on camera</a>.&nbsp;For that he was charged and found guilty of common assault and sentenced to a 150-hour community order. Kiddie was <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-30009568">dismissed</a> from the Metropolitan police as result of the incident.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/wasidaniju_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/wasidaniju_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>WASI DANIJU</span></span></span></p><p>After widespread anger on social media over Sarah’s death under the tags #SayHerName #SarahReed and #BlackLivesMatter, hundreds of people turned out for an emotional vigil held on the day of her burial earlier this week. Many of the attendees at the service were black woman who were moved by Sarah’s death to speak out about their own experiences of mental illness, racism and state violence. </p> <p>Campaigners and Sarah’s family have called for an investigation into her death. Writing <a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2016/02/sarah-reed-she-needed-care-not-punishment/">in the Justice Gap</a>, Zita Holbourne, chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, said: “Sarah’s life mattered. She was a black woman, a mother … a daughter, she was a human being. What happened to the humanity of those who failed her? We need to know.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/wasidaniju_7.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/wasidaniju_7.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>WASI DANIJU</span></span></span></p><p>Deborah Cole, of the charity INQUEST, which helps people bereaved by a death in custody or detention, told <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_E6oxc19Hs">Channel 4 news</a>: “What this tragic case needs is a far ranging investigation into the role of the police, the courts, mental health services and the prison to establish how it is that such a vulnerable woman appears to have been failed by all of these state agencies.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/572_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/572_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="196" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sarah Reed (c/o Lee Jasper)</span></span></span>On Twitter, one user <a href="https://twitter.com/KojoRTE/status/694861019928248320">wrote</a>: “<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SarahReed?src=hash"><span>#</span><strong>SarahReed</strong></a>’s death is a story of race, gender, class &amp; mental health. Shows who gets to make news and who can be discarded in Britain today.” </p><p>It was shared 330 times. A campaign group in Sarah Reed’s name has been set up on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/799906853449409/">Facebook</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>Pictures by&nbsp;<a href="http://wasidaniju.500px.com">Wasi Daniju</a>. Words by Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/amrit-wilson/black-deaths-still-fighting-for-justice-in-uk"> Black deaths: still fighting for justice in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/jenny-bourne/dying-for-justice-black-and-minority-ethnic-deaths-in-custody">Dying for Justice: black and minority ethnic deaths in custody</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/kojo-kyerewaa/fuck-police-working-class-youth-and-routine-abuse-of-power">&#039;Fuck the police!&#039; Working-class youth and the routine abuse of power</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/how-mental-health-services-fail-young-people-and-wh">How mental health services fail young people and what can be done about it</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight openJustice Access to justice Shine A Light Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Wasi Daniju Sat, 13 Feb 2016 19:16:21 +0000 Wasi Daniju and Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi 99774 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Shine A Light writer Jenny McCall wins Anti-Slavery Day media award https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/shine-light-writer-jenny-mccall-wins-anti-slavery-day-media-a <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Story exposing UK government’s failures to protect victims of trafficking judged “best news piece” on modern slavery.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/JENNYMCCALLMAY.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/JENNYMCCALLMAY.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="350" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jenny McCall accepts her award from Home Secretary Theresa May, 15 October 2015</span></span></span></p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/jennifermccal1?lang=en-gb">Jenny McCall</a> has won an Anti-Slavery Day award for a story, published on Shine A Light at openDemocracy, that exposed failings in the UK’s system for protecting victims of trafficking.</p> <p>Home Secretary Theresa May presented the “best news story” award to McCall for her story at an event held last Thursday at the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office">Foreign and Commonwealth Office</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jenny-mccall/just-how-badly-does-uk-protect-victims-of-trafficking">McCall’s piece</a>, headlined, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jenny-mccall/just-how-badly-does-uk-protect-victims-of-trafficking">“Just how badly does the UK protect victims of trafficking?”</a>, examined the <a href="http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/about-us/what-we-do/specialist-capabilities/uk-human-trafficking-centre/national-referral-mechanism">National Referral Mechanism</a>, the system designed to help trafficking victims. McCall uncovered serious failings.</p><p>“The National Referral Mechanism is a system designed to protect those who have been enslaved. But it has likely led to an increase in trafficking victims,” says McCall. “The Home Office is meant to spot someone who may have been trapped in slavery. Instead, when they questioned victims, they failed to act upon obvious signs that the person had been trafficked.”</p><p>The article was edited and published by Clare Sambrook, who leads <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light</a>, an investigative project that exposes injustice, challenges official lying, and provides intelligence and ammunition to people working for policy change.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ARTjenny.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ARTjenny.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="396" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>McCall, the child of West Indian migrants, was educated at a London comprehensive and Brunel University.&nbsp;Last year she took her Masters in journalism from City University.&nbsp;Her work has appeared in openDemocracy, Vice News, Big Issue North and Al Arabiya.</p> <p>Other Anti-Slavery Day winners included Guardian journalists&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/lawrencefelic?lang=en-gb">Felicity Lawrence</a>, who won best investigative article dealing with forced labour, <a href="https://twitter.com/anniekelly?lang=en-gb">Annie Kelly</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/MLMcNamara?lang=en-gb">Mei-Ling McNamara</a>, who won best investigative article for child trafficking.</p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/iratrivedi?lang=en-gb">Ira Trivedi</a> won best investigative article looking at sex trafficking, for her piece in Foreign Affairs magazine, entitled, ‘When a Bride to be is a Bride to Buy’. <a href="https://twitter.com/sarah_shebbeare?lang=en-gb">Sarah Shebbeare</a> won best radio documentary for ‘Britain’s legal slaves’, broadcast on BBC Radio 4.</p> <p>The event also paid tribute to documentary film-makers and stage productions. <a href="https://twitter.com/TenTenTheatre?lang=en-gb">Ten Ten</a> theatre, won best stage production dealing with modern slavery, for ‘This is my Body.’ Director <a href="https://twitter.com/timkeeling?lang=en-gb">Tim Keeling</a> picked up the award for best film production, for his piece, ‘Yoke Farm’. Ed Watts won the award for best documentary for his Channel 4 Dispatches piece, ‘Escape from ISIS’.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Picture 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Picture 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anthony Steen and Home Secretary Theresa May, Anti-Slavery Day event</span></span></span></p> <p>At the event, host Anthony Steen CBE, Chairman of the <a href="http://humantraffickingfoundation.org/">Human Trafficking Foundation</a>, said: “As we approach <a href="https://twitter.com/AntiSlaveryDay?lang=en-gb">Anti-Slavery Day this weekend</a>, let us not forget the thousands of people still living in slavery and remember the vital role the media play in drawing awareness to this important cause.”</p> <p>In her speech <a href="http://www.tmay.co.uk/">Home Secretary Theresa May</a> said the government would continue to work with the Human Trafficking Foundation and other charities such as the Salvation Army to help victims of trafficking.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>Note: Pictures courtesy of Anti-Slavery Day.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jenny-mccall/just-how-badly-does-uk-protect-victims-of-trafficking">Just how badly does the UK protect victims of trafficking?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/david-rhys-jones/when-youve-been-tortured-does-it-matter-who-your-torturer-was">When you&#039;ve been tortured does it matter who your torturer was?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/david-rhys-jones/what-stops-uk-protecting-victims-of-trafficking">What stops the UK protecting victims of trafficking?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/david-rhys-jones/is-she-victim-or-illegal-immigrant-uk-border-agency-decides">Is she a victim or an illegal immigrant? The UK Border Agency decides</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/david-rhys-jones/inspectors-condemn-uk-s-detention-of-torture-survivors-and-victims-of-t">Inspectors condemn UK’s detention of torture survivors and victims of trafficking</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight openJustice Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Mon, 19 Oct 2015 23:00:05 +0000 Clare Sambrook 96969 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Transforming the lives of women in trouble https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/jenny-earle/transforming-lives-of-women-in-trouble <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jobs, safe housing, childcare support. That’s what women need. Not prison.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Front cover image - high res CROP.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Front cover image - high res CROP.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="425" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Reach Higher, Louise, HMP Bronzefield. Supplied by the Watts Gallery.</span></span></span></p><p><span>Melissa (not her real name) had been arrested about 45 times and had more than 35 convictions, mainly for theft from shops. As a child she had experienced domestic and sexual abuse. As a young woman, her life was chaotic and she was using drugs, developing a crack cocaine-induced psychosis that criminal justice agencies failed to identify. </span></p><p><span>Over the years she was given sentences from fines to custody, with no-one picking up her mental health needs. Eventually she was referred to </span><a href="http://www.anawim.co.uk/">Anawim</a><span> women’s centre in Birmingham to complete a ‘specified activity requirement’ (now called a ‘rehabilitation activity requirement’) as part of a 12 month suspended sentence. </span></p><p><span>Staff at Anawim listened to Melissa and asked what support she needed. “Everything” was her reply, but mainly she wanted help with substance misuse and housing, and support to enable her to deal with everyday life, including self-esteem and confidence. </span></p><p><span>Melissa says: “Anawim changed my life – everything they offered I took on and completed, even doing a maths course and counselling. Now I even have my child back.”</span></p> <p><span>Although Melissa’s story is not typical in every respect – very few women are prolific offenders – many aspects of her story are all too familiar. More women go to prison for theft and handling than for any other offence and most women in prison are there for non-violent offences, on short sentences, which have the worst reoffending outcomes. </span></p><p><span>When women go to prison their children are rarely cared for by their father and their lives are turned upside down with long term consequences for their wellbeing. Mental health problems are much more prevalent among women in prison — they are nearly twice as likely as men to suffer from depression (65 per cent vs 37 per cent), and more likely to associate drug use with their offending (49 per cent vs 29 per cent).</span></p> <p><span>Most starkly, Melissa’s story makes the case for more widespread provision of non-custodial responses to low-level offending such as shop-lifting.</span></p> <p>The latest <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/07/HMIP-AR_2014-15_TSO_Final1.pdf">annual report</a> of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (for 2014-15) reinforces the need for a new approach. It identifies much higher proportions of women than men as having a drug problem (41 per cent vs 28 per cent) or an alcohol problem (30 per cent vs 19 per cent) on arrival into prison. The staggeringly large proportion of the women’s prison population who are on medication (77 per cent) is evidence of the mental and physical health problems that are often an underlying factor in women’s offending.</p> <p>Women’s services, such as <a href="http://nelsontrust.com/community-based-services/isis/">ISIS in Gloucester</a>, <a href="http://womencentre.org.uk">WomenCentre</a> in Calderdale, <a href="http://www.anawim.co.uk/">Anawim</a> in Birmingham, have shown themselves more effective than prison in reducing reoffending as well as in enabling vulnerable women whose needs have been long overlooked to lead productive lives. Yet there is patchy provision across the UK of women’s centres and their funding is inadequate and insecure. We need these services more than ever.</p> <p>Although there has been a decline in women’s prison numbers over the last couple of years, there is a risk they will increase. In England and Wales, anyone serving as little as a couple of days in prison will be subject to twelve months post-custody supervision imposed by the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014. The <a href="http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk">Prison Reform Trust</a> is already hearing reports of women being recalled to prison as a result of this. </p><p>On the other hand the new duty on the Secretary of State for Justice in section 10<em> </em>of the same Act<em> </em>to “identify and address the specific needs of women offenders” should deliver better outcomes for women. But we will want to see evidence that adequate women-specific services and interventions are in fact being provided when the dust has settled from the turmoil created by the wholesale reorganisation of the probation service.</p> <p>There are other encouraging signs of a sea change in policy. Last week the <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmjustice/374/37402.htm">government’s response</a> to the House of Commons Justice Committee <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmjust/314/31402.htm">report on women offenders</a> was published. In it, the minister Caroline Dinenage MP, Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for Women, Equalities and Family Justice, notes: “For the last two years, the female prison population has been consistently under 4,000 for the first time in a decade. I want to see still fewer women in custody, especially those who are primary carers of young children.” </p> <p>She has reconvened, and is reinvigorating, the Ministerial Advisory Board on Female Offenders which, while not representing a fully-fledged Women’s Justice Board mechanism that many of us want to see, is a step in the right direction.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Meanwhile in Scotland, where criminal justice is devolved, the decision to build a new women’s prison has been reversed in favour of small custodial units and community-based provision. The Scottish Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, has said:</p> <blockquote><p>“Scotland has the second highest female prison population in Northern Europe.. this is completely unacceptable and does not fit with my vision of how a modern and progressive society should deal with female offenders.” </p></blockquote> <p>We will be working closely with <a href="http://www.familiesoutside.org.uk/">Families Outside</a> in Scotland, a well-respected independent charity that supports prisoners’ families.&nbsp;</p><p><span>In Northern Ireland a new step-down facility is being provided for women leaving prison and the NI Minister for Justice David Ford MLA understands that “the number of women offenders is comparatively small but the impact is not and it is obvious that within the criminal justice system we cannot simply replicate what we provide for men and hope it will work for women.”</span></p><p><span>So there is a willingness to adopt a new approach and we will be seizing the opportunity this offers to make the case for more widespread provision of non-custodial responses to low-level offending, such as shop-lifting.</span></p> <p>We are starting today by publishing a <a href="http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/why%20focus%20on%20reducing%20women%27s%20imprisonment%20BL.pdf">briefing</a> that highlights both the need and the opportunities to accelerate progress in reforming women’s justice.</p> <p>This marks the start of a new UK-wide drive to reduce women’s imprisonment, and so reduce the toll it takes on the children affected as well as the women themselves. Supported by the Big Lottery Fund for three years, we plan to build on the findings and recommendations of our <a href="http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/transforming%20lives.pdf">Transforming Lives</a> report with the Soroptimists and the Pilgrim Trust.</p> <p>Working with partner charities, we will drive policy and practice change, identify good alternative approaches across the four nations, and promote effective early intervention and diversion of women into services. This makes sense when you consider that short prison sentences — overwhelmingly what women serve — have the worst reoffending outcomes. Women’s community services show better outcomes, reduce reoffending, and are much less costly in every way than the high level security prisons to which non-violent women are sent.&nbsp; </p> <p><span>Most of the solutions to women’s offending lie outside prison walls. As Melissa says, we should “listen more and don’t judge a book by its covers. Women like me need help and the first step is that someone listens, has empathy and shows some love and kindness. I see only good things in the future for me and my child.” &nbsp;</span></p><p><span>I am looking forward to working with the women who know best what they need to stay out of trouble (such as jobs, safe housing, childcare support), as well as with partner charities, local and national governments, and criminal justice agencies across the UK. Reducing women’s imprisonment will help ensure that more women like Melissa get the opportunity to transform their lives.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span></p><hr /><p>Become a Friend of the Prison Reform Trust from just £2 a month – <a href="http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/GetInvolved/BecomeaFriend">find out more here</a><strong>.</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-crook/pregnant-teenager-imprisoned-for-failing-to-keep-appointments-with-her-sup">Pregnant teenager imprisoned for failing to keep appointments with her supervisor</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jenny-earle/womens-secure-estate-does-punishment-fit-crime">Women&#039;s &#039;secure estate&#039;: Does the punishment fit the crime ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jenny-earle/victims-behind-bars-foreign-national-women-are-being-trafficked-into-offendi">Victims behind bars – foreign national women are being trafficked into offending in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/prison-treacherous-place-for-child">Prison, a treacherous place for a child</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/david-ramsbotham/want-to-improve-our-prisons-mr-gove-stop-look-listen">Want to improve our prisons, Mr Gove? Stop. Look. Listen.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/house-of-commons-justice-committee/call-for-better-prison-policy-in-time-of-austerity">A call for better prison policy in a time of austerity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/juliet-lyon/rising-suicides-and-assaults-more-punitive-regimes-less-rehabilitation-no-pr">Rising suicides and assaults, more punitive regimes, less rehabilitation. No prisons crisis?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/laura-janes/playing-politics-with-prisoners-access-to-justice">Playing politics with prisoners’ access to justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/mike-guilfoyle/gambling-with-public-safety-privatising-probation">Gambling with public safety: privatising probation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/hannana-siddiqui/ending-stark-choice-domestic-violence-or-destitution-in-uk">Ending the stark choice: domestic violence or destitution in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-crook/transforming-probation-or-wrecking-service-that-works">Transforming probation? Or wrecking a service that works?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight openJustice Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Shine A Light Jenny Earle Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:41:29 +0000 Jenny Earle 94859 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Human rights, why should I care? Thalidomide and other stories https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/adam-wagner/human-rights-why-should-i-care-thalidomide-and-other-stories <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Three real life cases from <a href="http://rightsinfo.org/">RightsInfo</a> illuminate why human rights matter.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/LOW__THALIDOMIDE copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/LOW__THALIDOMIDE copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="398" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sunday Times, 27 June 1976. Legs for a Thalidomide-affected boy, 1975 (London Science Museum)</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>The free press</strong></h2> <p>The year is 1961. A woman in the UK gives birth to her child. But&nbsp;something is wrong. The newborn child has deformed limbs.</p> <p>The cause was Thalidomide – a drug first produced in 1957 in Germany, and released in the UK in 1958. It was popular with many pregnant women for reducing morning sickness.&nbsp;Unfortunately, Thalidomide caused devastating harm to unborn babies. Over 10,000 children across the world were born with severe birth defects. The drug manufacturer, Distillers, entered talks with the victims’ families to compensate them for the damage caused by the drugs.</p> <p>Meanwhile, there was a swelling of public outrage. The Sunday Times launched a campaign in support of the victims. However, the Attorney General stopped the publication of a particular article which detailed the history and negligence involved in the drug’s development. The Attorney General argued that the article would be&nbsp;a contempt of court, as it would unfairly influence the on-going negotiations between the victims’ parents and Distillers.</p> <p>The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Attorney General violated the Sunday Times’s right to freedom of expression. They said&nbsp;that “the thalidomide disaster” was “a matter of undisputed public concern”.&nbsp;Therefore, the press had a right to inform the public about the facts of the case, and the victims’ families had a right to learn the truth about the drugs.</p> <p>The legacy of Thalidomide remains with us. The drug is still used – albeit in limited circumstances – to help treat cancer patients. Surviving victims are still fighting to gain compensation. Yet this story shows that in a case of exceptional public interest, the general public have a right to know the truth behind a tragedy.</p> <p>This story is a short summary of a legal judgment. <a href="http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/1979/1.html">You can read the full judgment here</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Prisoner voting and civil death</strong></h2> <p>“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” We’ve all heard this muttered by a bad-talking TV cop slapping handcuffs on a villain.&nbsp;There’s a point to the phrase. Punishment makes sure that justice is done. And justice must be done. It is the foundation for any healthy society.</p> <p>But the European Court of Human Rights ruled&nbsp;that justice does not require a blanket ban to stops all prisoners from voting.&nbsp;The Court’s judgment was based on a case brought&nbsp;to it by John Hirst, who had been&nbsp;convicted of manslaughter. He claimed that he was denied his right to regular, free and fair elections because he was not allowed to vote.</p> <p>The case should have had a significant effect on&nbsp;many&nbsp;prisoners – not just Hirst. The judges accepted that the right to vote did not need to be given to every prisoner. But they also argued that a blanket ban could not be justified for two reasons.&nbsp;First, voting is a right and not a privilege: it is something we are all automatically entitled to just by being citizens, not something that needs to be earned by good behaviour. The government was therefore wrong to say that people who have behaved badly can <em>automatically</em> be stopped from voting.</p> <p>Second, a blanket ban does not distinguish between different prisoners, who have committed different crimes. The punishment is meant to fit the crime. We even have different types of prisons for different types of offences. So why should all prisoners be subject to the exact same <em>extra</em> punishment?</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/PRISONER VOTE2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/PRISONER VOTE2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="392" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daily Telegraph, 13 December 2013</span></span></span></p> <p>This case is probably more famous for the anger it caused in the UK than the outcome. That controversy has meant that now, 10 years after the original judgment, it has still not been implemented. It may be that this judgment, which probably only requires that a few thousand of the UK’s 80,000 prisoners get to vote, leads to the UK leaving the European Convention. Ultimately, it might seem the Court was going too easy on prisoners by getting rid of the total voting ban. But they’re still being punished: in all the months and years of missed moments and memories. They’re still doing their time.</p> <p>This story is a short summary of a legal judgment. <a href="http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/2005/681.html">You can read the full judgment here</a>.&nbsp;<span>More on this case: </span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11686283">BBC News</a><span>, </span><a href="http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2013/10/16/this-supreme-court-prisoner-voting-decision-really-is-a-victory-for-common-sense/">UK Human Rights Blog</a><span>,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201314/jtselect/jtdraftvoting/103/103.pdf">Joint Committee on the Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill</a><span>.</span></p><h2><strong>I’m a woman. Deal with it</strong></h2><p>Times change. People change. Society and the law sometimes have to catch up, and catch up quick.</p><p>Christine Goodwin had&nbsp;changed. She was born a man but identified as a woman. She had been married with four children and was the children’s biological father. After decades dressing as a man for work but a woman in her free time, Christine began the long and difficult process of gender re-assignment. She had surgery and became a male to female transsexual.&nbsp;But Christine remained, in the eyes of the law, male. She could not draw a pension at age 60. She felt unable to do things which would require her to present her birth certificate, such as obtaining the winter fuel allowance and reporting that £200 had been stolen from her, as this would reveal her previous identity. The law also prevented her from marrying a man.</p><p>Christine took her case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that her right to private life and right to marry had been violated. The Court said that the law conflicted with an important aspect of Christine’s personal identity, which was a serious interference with her private life. Her right to marry had also been breached.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/FINCHRISTINE.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/FINCHRISTINE.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>European Court of Human Rights judgment, July 2002</span></span></span></p><p><span>Because of Christine’s case, an Act of Parliament, the Gender Recognition Act 2004, was passed to give legal recognition to transsexual people as members of their new gender. The Act allows them to obtain a new birth certificate and permits them to marry members of the opposite gender.&nbsp;Christine passed away in December 2014. She was one of the few transsexual people to use her name in her application to court, because she “had nothing to be ashamed of”. Her victory strengthened the human rights of transsexual people throughout Europe. A great legacy for a very brave woman.</span></p> <p>This story is a short summary of a legal judgment. <a href="http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/2002/588.html">You can read the full judgment here</a>.&nbsp;<span>More at </span><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2122094.stm">BBC News</a><span>.</span></p> <p><a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/"><strong>RightsInfo</strong></a><strong></strong></p> <p>The Conservative government wants to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. We don’t yet know what that will look like. Meanwhile, public debate is fogged by misinformation and lack of understanding. Human rights&nbsp;advocates need to convey to people why human rights matters to&nbsp;<em>them</em>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>These three short stories about real human rights cases were first posted on a new site,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/">RightsInfo</a>, which provides clear and reliable information about why human rights matter. The stories were written by the <a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/about">RightsInfo Project Volunteers</a> and edited by Adam Wagner. RightsInfo is turning 50 key human rights cases into plain-English stories and publishing one each weekday. You can find the full list&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/">here</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/adam-wagner/human-rights-why-should-i-care-real-life-stories">Human rights, why should I care? Real life stories</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/adam-wagner/human-rights-why-should-i-care-more-real-life-stories">Human rights, why should I care? More real life stories</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/connor-johnston/in-defence-of-human-rights-act-laws-must-change-with-society">In defence of the Human Rights Act - laws must change with society</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/geoffrey-bindman/coalition-deadlock-over-law-and-politics-of-human-rights">Coalition deadlock over the law and politics of human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/meghan-campbell/future-of-human-rights-in-uk-0">The future of human rights in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/sally-fraser/why-would-prime-minister-respect-human-rights-nobody-respected-his">Why would the Prime Minister respect human rights? Nobody respected his</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk ShineALight openJustice Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Great Charter Convention Shine A Light Adam Wagner Wed, 24 Jun 2015 23:00:40 +0000 Adam Wagner 93715 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Prison, a treacherous place for a child https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/carolyne-willow/prison-treacherous-place-for-child <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Thirty-three children have died in English child prisons since 1990.&nbsp;A powerful new book exposes how Britain’s most vulnerable children are routinely damaged by the state.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*for willow tweeting.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*for willow tweeting.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="361" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>When Alex Kelly was six years old, medical examinations revealed that he had been repeatedly raped over many years. He was subsequently taken into the care of Tower Hamlets council. </p><p>In January 2012, when Alex was 15, he hanged himself at Cookham Wood young offender institution in Kent. He’d been there for four months. For most of this period, Alex had no allocated social worker, and council workers argued with one another over their responsibilities to him.</p> <p>Late last year, after an inquest jury concluded that “systemic failure” by the local authority and inadequate safeguarding within the prison had contributed to Alex’s death, the solicitor Mark Scott, speaking for Alex’s father, said: “Alex was extremely vulnerable and a child in need of care but instead was treated as a child in need of custody.” (<a href="https://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/uploads/other/18_12_2014_09_21_30_18.12.14.pdf">PDF&nbsp;here</a>)</p> <p>Children who have suffered the most horrendous hardships in their early lives&nbsp;<span>find little mercy in the state-organised punishment of penal incarceration.&nbsp;</span><span>From everything that could be known about a child, we select a fraction of his or her behaviour – that which has breached the law – and construe their ‘master status’ as young offender. </span></p><p><span>Many other descriptors could be used (if label we must) to more accurately reflect children’s lives and circumstances, including victims of poverty, maltreatment, bereavement, educational exclusion and institutional racism. There is no question that the vast majority of child prisoners will have suffered serious human rights violations.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/3559916_48821_0-630.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/3559916_48821_0-630.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alex Kelly</span></span></span></p> <p>Alex was one of 33 children to have died in English child prisons since 1990. That’s when the UK signed an international children’s rights agreement to use detention only as a measure of last resort.</p> <p>There has been a massive reduction in the number of detained children over the past five years but, still, the UK remains one of the chief child incarcerators in Europe. </p><p>In 1991, there were 572 children held in prison service institutions; in March 2015, there were 706. A further 186 were detained in three secure training centres run by the international security company G4S. (Children were moved out of Hassockfield secure training centre, run by Serco, at the end of last year).</p><p>Just 11 per cent of children in custody (112) were kept in secure children’s homes, establishments governed by the Children Act 1989 and run by local authorities.</p> <p>Only two of 47 Council of Europe member states, Russia and Turkey, detained more children than the UK in September 2013, the latest date for which Council of Europe figures are available. </p> <h3>They are children</h3> <p>A few years ago I set out to write a book about two boys, Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood, who died following ‘restraint’ in secure training centres in 2004. I wanted to find out what they were like as people, what made them laugh, what they enjoyed doing, what plans they had for their lives. I hoped to be able to write about them in such a way as to encourage policymakers to make connections with the children in their own lives they love and cherish, and to thereby stimulate radical action. </p> <p>Then I read <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/nov/23/cruel-britannia-ian-cobain-review">Cruel Britannia</a>, Ian Cobain’s book on the British state’s use of torture, and I decided to widen the scope of my work to examine the many harms caused by child incarceration. Having been a children’s rights campaigner for many years, I was already well aware of many of the scandals. But I knew there was much more to investigate and expose. </p><p>My early career as a child protection social worker had equipped me to ask uncomfortable questions, to interrogate information and ‘facts’ presented by adults in positions of power and to always stay firmly focused on the child’s feelings and perspective. Several hundred FOIs, analysis of dozens of parliamentary questions, 24 interviews and months of research and writing, and here we are.</p><p>My book,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781447321538">Children Behind Bars</a>, catalogues the mistreatment of vulnerable children held behind perimeter fences and banged up in cells for 14 or more hours a day, sometimes over a hundred miles from home.</p><p>These are children banished to young offender institutions known to be violent and unsafe, and secure training centres found by the High Court to have been sites of “widespread unlawful use of restraint”. </p><p>Child prisoners are exposed to practices that would invite state intervention were they to happen in the community. A parent who locked a child in a tiny room for more than 20 hours a day would, at the very least, be sent on a compulsory course to correct his or her abusive behaviour. Yet such mistreatment is routinely perpetrated by a punitive state that abandons child protection norms when it comes to young offenders.</p><p>What else might explain the lack of public outcry following an inspection report on a Staffordshire prison in March 2014? This told us children were being locked in cells that were “the worst [inspectors] had seen for some time. Some cells were filthy, gloomy and covered in graffiti, and contained offensive material, heavily scaled toilets, damaged furniture and smashed observation panels”. [<a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/06/Werrington-2013.pdf">PDF</a>]</p><p>Many of the cells holding children on their first night in the prison were “in an uninhabitable state”.</p><p><span>Three quarters of child inmates were held in pairs in cells designed for single occupancy. The inspectors noted: “Cells were cramped with not enough furniture and inadequate toilet screening.”</span>&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*finished 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*finished 1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span>Another inspection report that same month tells of children at Wetherby young offender institution in West Yorkshire locked in cells so small they had to sleep “in close proximity to the toilet”. [<a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/06/Wetherby-2013.pdf">PDF</a>]</span></p> <p>In a third report —&nbsp;released in August 2014 —&nbsp;inspectors who visited Hindley&nbsp;<span>young offender institution,</span><span>&nbsp;near Wigan, expressed concern about the prison’s punishment and rewards scheme. At weekends, children on its lowest level spent at most 135 minutes out of their cells. Boys sometimes had less than 15 minutes’ daily exercise in the open air. [<a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/08/Hindley-Web-2014.pdf">PDF</a>]</span></p> <p>Here’s how Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, sums up the effects of imprisonment on children:</p> <blockquote><p>“It’s intellectually stultifying, it’s emotionally inhibiting, it’s sexually inhibiting, it’s frightening, your educational opportunities are restricted. In every aspect it’s negative.”</p></blockquote><p>Six years ago, after investigating the treatment of children and adults with mental health problems and learning disabilities by the police, courts and prisons, <a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130107105354/http:/www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_098694">Labour peer Lord Bradley reported</a>: </p><blockquote><p>“The prison environment, with its rules and regimes governing daily life, can be seriously detrimental to mental health.”</p></blockquote><p>The Children’s Commissioner for England documented the case of a primary school girl who had suffered domestic violence and family breakdown. As a newly imprisoned teenager, she refused to leave her cell for the first six weeks.</p><p>Imagine a child in the community spending the whole of the school summer holidays locked in an austerely furnished room with a toilet, and food trays delivered to the door.</p><p>The experience of being sent to prison is deeply traumatic, as this boy told the Howard League for Penal Reform: </p><blockquote><p>“My first night in custody was the worst night of my life. I’d never been lonely before. I felt so lonely.”&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>Joseph Scholes left his parents a note before he hanged himself in prison a month after his 16th birthday: “I’m sorry, I just can’t cope.”&nbsp;</p><h3>See no evil. . .</h3><p>How can we explain the lack of outrage shown by the general public, the media and among politicians, in response to 33 children dying in institutions run by the state? Do people know?</p><p>Information drips from different sources. It is difficult to get the full picture.&nbsp;</p><p>There is research and testimony published by campaign groups, human rights bodies and academics. Some of the most shocking evidence is in court reports, inquest transcripts, coroners’ notes and other official documents that take some tracking down.&nbsp;</p><p>Then there is the use of euphemism and what psychologists might call avoidance techniques.&nbsp;<span>Officials rarely use the siren call of child abuse when it comes to prisons.&nbsp;</span></p><p>“Inappropriate” was the adjective chosen by the prisons inspectorate to describe the routine handcuffing and strip-searching of vulnerable children brought to a specialist unit because they could not cope in an ordinary prison.</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*hunger.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*hunger.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="447" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>“Significant weakness” was how Ofsted noted the absence of nurses, in contravention of the rules, during the use of restraint in a secure training centre. Inspectors gave the commercial contractor G4S three months to rectify the breach. In February 2015, inspectors who had visited another G4S-run secure training centre communicated their “concern” that a child with a fracture was denied medical treatment for 15 hours.</span></p> <p>Former head of the prison service, Martin Narey, told parliamentarians of “the possibility that the public greatly underestimates the full extent of the discomfort, pain and deprivation of liberty for anyone of any age”. He said: “For a child it is particularly traumatic.” </p> <h2>Significant harm </h2> <p>Knowingly causing children discomfort, pain and trauma fits the definition of significant harm in the Children Act 1989 – the part of the law sending social workers to front doors.</p> <p><span><em>Harm</em></span> in the 1989 Act means ill treatment or the impairment of a child’s health or development, including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of others. </p> <p><span><em>Development</em></span> encompasses a child’s physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development. <span><em>Health</em></span> means physical or mental health. <span><em>Ill</em> <em>treatment</em></span> includes sexual abuse and other kinds of mistreatment that are not physical.<br /> <br /> For many years Chris Callender has worked with children in prison, as a solicitor in law firms in Leeds and London and as the legal director of the <a href="http://www.howardleague.org">Howard League for Penal Reform</a>. I asked him if any of his cases involved a child suffering significant harm in prison. He said: &nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>“Most of the cases are likely to be bullying or intimidation or risk from either other prisoners or officers within the context and confines of the imprisonment. I can’t think of many cases where those young people were free from those issues.</p><br />“<span>So I just think that incarceration in YOIs [young offender institutions], particularly YOIs, the risk of harm – whether through fights, through turf wars, through bullying, threats from officers to children, or children to children – is endemic.”</span></blockquote><p>According to government child protection rules, <em>physical abuse</em> encompasses hitting, throwing and “otherwise causing physical harm to a child”. </p><p><em>Emotional abuse</em> can include “conveying to a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued insofar as they meet the needs of another person”. It may include silencing the child, belittling them and having inappropriate expectations. Serious bullying, and making children feel frightened and in danger a lot of the time, is a form of emotional abuse.&nbsp;</p><p><span><em>Sexual abuse</em></span>&nbsp;can include “forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities”.&nbsp;<span><em>Neglect</em></span>&nbsp;is the persistent failure to meet the child’s most basic needs.</p><h3>You’d be terrified</h3><p>In July 2013, the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-23248433">told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme</a>&nbsp;that parents would be ‘terrified’ were their child to be incarcerated in Feltham young offender institution in London. </p><p>Had this been a statement from the head of the Care Quality Commission about an older people’s home, or a hospital for people with learning disabilities, the establishment in question would have been closed down. Prison service managers seem to have superhuman resilience to exposures that would topple other organisations.</p><p>Feltham young offender institution was the prison in which&nbsp;Zahid Mubarek, a British Asian teenager, was placed in a cell with profoundly disturbed Robert Stewart of the same age. On 21 March 2000, Stewart battered Mubarek into a coma with a table leg. Such was the minimal staffing in the institution, and the physical layout, that it was Stewart himself who first drew attention to the ferocious attack by ringing his cell buzzer.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/HMCIP Nick Hardwick, HMP Pentonville.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/HMCIP Nick Hardwick, HMP Pentonville.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nick Hardwick: 'If you were a parent with a child in Feltham you would be right to be terrified' </span></span></span></p><p>Zahid died in hospital. The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/zahid-mubarek-inquiry">public inquiry into his death</a>&nbsp;heard that prison officers had devised a game called ‘Coliseum’, whereby incompatible inmates would be deliberately detained in shared cells to incite violence and staff made bets on the outcome. </p><p>The inquiry was unable to substantiate those claims. However, it discovered that three white prison officers had handcuffed an ethnic minority prisoner to the bars of his cell, removed his trousers and smeared his bottom with black shoe polish. The officers were given official warnings.</p><p>Two white trainee prison officers who urinated on a black trainee during a training course were dismissed.</p><p>The then head of the prison service Martin Narey admitted: “It goes beyond institutional racism to blatant malicious pockets of racism.<span>”</span></p><h3>Sexual abuse of child prisoners</h3><p>There were 181 boys in Feltham at the time of the&nbsp;‘terrified parents<span>’</span><span>&nbsp;inspection. Almost a third of children reported victimisation by a member of staff. And 300 acts of violence had been perpetrated by children on each other in the six months preceding the inspection. The inspectors found a segregation unit, which also held young adults, with “ingrained dirt on floors and walls”. [</span><a href="http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/prisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/03/feltham-a-annual-report.pdf">PDF</a><span>]</span></p><p>The prisons inspectorate’s survey of children held in 11 prisons the previous year found 32 per cent of boys and 22 per cent of girls had felt unsafe. More than one in 10 boys and almost a quarter of girls reported being subject to insulting remarks by prison staff. Physical abuse by staff was reported by 4 per cent of the boys. [<a href="http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-client-groups/young-offenders/tsop/144293children-and-young-people-custody-2011-12.pdf">PDF</a>]</p><p>At least nine boys reported sexual abuse by staff and the same number said other boys had sexually abused them. In one prison unit staff sexual abuse was alleged by 6 per cent of the boys. One in every 20 boys reported racial or ethnic abuse by staff. Nearly one tenth of children reported bullying by prison officers in another piece of research; child-on-child bullying was even higher.&nbsp;<span>[</span><a href="http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-client-groups/young-offenders/tsop/144293children-and-young-people-custody-2011-12.pdf">PDF</a><span>]</span></p><p>An FOI request I made to the prisons inspectorate revealed that, between July 2009 and March 2014, inspectors reported 130 child protection allegations from 112 children to prison child protection staff or managers following 30 routine inspections of young offender institutions and secure training centres in England.</p><p>Surveys in only two of the inspections resulted in no allegations of child abuse.&nbsp;</p><p>The actual incidence of abuse may be much higher. Surveys of children in unsafe surroundings are unlikely, on their own, to elicit the true level of abuse and other concerns.</p><p>The Ministry of Justice agency that runs prisons is called the National Offender Management Service, or NOMS. Early in 2014 NOMS disclosed that it had paid £252,370 in compensation over the past five years to individuals detained as children or young adults in 12 English prisons.&nbsp;</p><p>Payouts in respect of two child prisons — Warren Hill and Hindley young offender institutions —&nbsp;amounted to £76,000 between 2008/09 and 2012/13. Officials refused to disclose the nature of the claims, supposedly to protect the identity of claimants.&nbsp;</p><p>No data was provided for Ashfield young offender institution (which held children until 2013). As a private prison, it is obliged to provide information only as specified in its government contract, I was told. Nor can such data be unearthed using FOI requests, since private prisons are not covered by FOI legislation.&nbsp;</p><p>Imprisoning children means more than depriving them of their liberty. It squanders precious time that could be spent investigating what has gone wrong in their lives and changing it.&nbsp;<span>Adolescence is a period of massive transformation, when even teenagers living happy lives require careful handling.&nbsp;</span><span>Imprisonment is a deliberate act of rejection, banishment and exclusion – the very antithesis of what these children need.</span></p><p>Child prisoners rarely move from being fully included in society one day, to outsiders the next. Barrister and peer Lord Carlile, who conducted an inquiry into the treatment of child prisoners, described the <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/111107-0002.htm#11110733000305">“animalised, brutalised structure”</a> of prison life that compounds what has been missing in the lives of these children.&nbsp;</p><h3>Hard lives, inside and out</h3><p>Our prisons are filled with the poorest, most disadvantaged children who often have considerable mental health and learning difficulties. Even before they begin the admissions process, which involves being given a number, removing clothes and answering questions about suicidal thoughts and substance misuse, the lives of most child prisoners will have told them that they are worthless – certainly worth less than other children.&nbsp;</p><p>Analysis of the forms completed when a child has contact with the criminal justice system shows more than a third of girls have been abused and many have endured significant bereavement or loss (29 per cent) or witnessed family violence (24 per cent). Only 17 per cent live with both their parents. [<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/354833/yjb-girls-offending.pdf">PDF</a>]</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*kids angry.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*kids angry.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p><span><span>Children learn in prison that suppressing their feelings and being outwardly tough is the best way to survive. The chances are they believe this already.</span></span></p> <p>Hunger is a common complaint. In January 2014, prisons minister Jeremy Wright told parliament the prison service spent an average of <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140129/text/140129w0004.htm#1401303002129">£1.96 a day on prisoner meals</a> in 2013/14, an 11 per cent reduction on the previous year. Even hospitals spend three times as much.</p> <p>In a recent study of food in young offender institutions, only one of the nine prisons achieved the policy requirement of having no more than 14 hours between evening meal and breakfast.</p> <p>In June 2014, children were served mouldy bread in Cookham Wood young offender institution — while inspectors were on the premises. [<a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Cookham-Wood-Web-2014.pdf">PDF</a>]</p> <h3>I can’t breathe</h3> <p>Coroners and judges have ruled that unlawful restraint regimes continued unabated for many years in secure training centres. Human rights bodies have criticised the UK’s reliance on pain infliction as a tool of restraint. </p> <p><a href="http://inquest.org.uk">INQUEST</a>, the charity that supports the bereaved families of children and adults who have died in police and prison custody, told the government in 2007: “the violation of the rights of this large body of children goes worryingly beyond inhumane and humiliating treatment. It has been proved forensically that it presents a persistent risk of injury, suffering or death.” [<a href="http://www.inquest.org.uk/pdf/INQUEST_submission_to_moj_dcsf_on_review_of_restaint.pdf">PDF</a>]</p> <p>It is a matter of public record that large numbers of children have been injured, many very badly, following restraint in penal institutions over the past decade. </p><p>In November 2011, <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/111109w0001.htm#111109102000462">parliament was told that 285 ‘exception reports’</a> had been submitted to civil servants since 2006 by commercial contractors G4S and Serco in respect of the four secure training centres. The two companies are required to produce these reports whenever children’s breathing has been compromised during restraint, or they have suffered serious injury requiring hospital treatment.</p><p><span>There are details that do not make their way to parliament, such as the five children who suffered six wrist fractures during restraint in Castington young offender institution between January 2007 and September 2008. <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm071205/text/71205w0013.htm">A reply to a question</a> in parliament in December 2007 reported that only one child had suffered such an injury after restraint in that prison that year. Even the government’s correction in September 2009 did not result in the true figure being recorded.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The internal report I obtained through an FOI request states that none of the five children was restrained because they were fighting and that most of the injuries were sustained in areas without CCTV. </p><p>A separate internal prison review was undertaken after six incidents in which children were thought to have suffered a fractured or broken bone during restraint in Hindley young offender institution (one suspected fracture was later found to have been wrongly diagnosed). The injuries occurred between February 2009 and April 2011, and only one of the situations arose because a child was fighting. One boy made an official complaint to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman after he was moved to another prison. It was upheld.</p> <p>Information obtained from the Youth Justice Board records, on average, 84 self-harm incidents in young offender institutions, and 16 in secure training centres, every month throughout 2012. <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/130722w0001.htm">Between 2007/08 and 2011/12</a>, 81 children in young offender institutions and 17 in secure training centres required hospital treatment following self-harm.</p> <p><a href="http://www.howardleague.org/susan-story/">One teenage girl</a> incarcerated in a women’s prison in Wakefield self-harmed so badly she needed blood transfusions. She was passed back and forth between prison segregation and hospital until her lawyer at the Howard League for Penal Reform obtained a High Court injunction in 2005 preventing her return to prison.</p> <p>Her barrister, Ian Wise QC, said: </p><blockquote><p>“There were women prison officers who were trying to do the right thing for [the girl] I’m sure, but they were just totally out of their depth. I mean these people have got no training on mental health issues.”</p></blockquote> <h3>Now, strip</h3> <p>As a child protection social worker, I worked with children who had been sexually assaulted in their own homes. I spent a lot of time reassuring children they were not to blame and no-one had the right to hurt them. Some years later, during my work on Lord Carlile’s inquiry, I met children who had been strip-searched in secure training centres. They said they felt embarrassed, degraded and uncomfortable. One girl told me about being strip-searched during her period; she had to pass her sanitary towel to staff for inspection. [<a href="http://www.howardleague.org/fileadmin/howard_league/user/pdf/Publications/Carlile_Report_pdf.pdf">PDF</a>]&nbsp;</p> <p>Had I still been a social worker, and these children were telling me about their fathers, uncles or children’s homes workers, they would have been officially classed as victims of child abuse. But as child prisoners such routine attacks on their integrity were authorised by the state. </p> <p>Children in young offender institutions have reported being made to squat in front of officers without their underwear. </p> <p>Routine strip-searching was banned for female prisoners several years before the same policy change for children.</p> <p>When Lord Carlile concluded that strip-searching is not necessary to maintain good order and safety, the Youth Justice Board promised a review. Its then chair, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2006/mar/23/comment.prisonsandprobation">Rod Morgan, argued in <em>The Guardian</em></a>: “Some young people arrive in custody with drugs or weapons hidden on their bodies and clothing. The consequences of drugs or knives inside a secure establishment are not hard to imagine, and every precaution, including searching, has been taken to stop this.” </p> <p>So Morgan and the&nbsp;Youth Justice Board&nbsp;must have had robust evidence that strip-searching was necessary? </p> <p>Not so. </p> <p>The&nbsp;Youth Justice Board&nbsp;began collecting strip-searching data only in 2011, five years after the Carlile Inquiry reported and eleven years after it was given legal responsibility for booking children into prisons.</p> <p>Rod Morgan resigned in January 2007, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2007/01_january/26/youth.shtml">telling BBC Newsnight</a>: “I have to say to you that a custodial establishment, no matter how good we make them, is the worst conceivable environment within which to improve somebody’s behaviour.” </p> <h3>How to dehumanise</h3> <p>In June 2011, inspectors observed&nbsp;“petty and restrictive”&nbsp;rules operating in Lancaster Farms young offender institution. Only children on the highest level of the behaviour management scheme could wear their own clothes and even this was restricted to their cells and during other very limited periods. [<a href="http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/prisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/03/lancaster-farms-2011.pdf">PDF</a>] Earlier inspection reports showed this to be institutionally entrenched. </p><p>Five months into the new millennium, inspectors found the prison was experiencing “problems getting Prison Service clothes small enough for many of the residents” and recommended: “Small clothing should be available from Central Prison Service Stores.” [<a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110204170815/http://www.justice.gov.uk/inspectorates/hmi-prisons/docs/lancaster_farm_report_-_lat1-rps.pdf">PDF</a>]<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*sunlight.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*sunlight.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="443" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>This was five years after the <a href="http://www.scie-socialcareonline.org.uk/so-who-are-we-meant-to-trust-now-responding-to-abuse-in-care-the-experiences-of-young-people/r/a11G00000017xUQIAY">NSPCC had published a report</a> from survivors of abuse in care. One of the violations depicted in the report concerned the humiliation of being forced to wear communal clothing: </p><blockquote><p>“If we did not achieve so many points we were not allowed to wear our own clothes.”</p></blockquote><p>The final inspection of Warren Hill young offender institution in Suffolk before it became an adult prison in April 2014 reported that children were made to wear prison clothes but could keep their own underwear and socks. The only washing facility for underwear and socks was cell basins, so “many chose to wear prison-issue underclothes”. [<a href="http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/prisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/03/warren-hill-2013.pdf">PDF</a>]</p><p>A children’s charity was asked to review safeguarding in child prisons and its 2008 report observed that journeys to the young offender institutions&nbsp;<span>“</span><span>get them off to a frightening start. They often arrived late after hours spent in a small, uncomfortable cubicle within a van, frightened not only about where they are being taken to but what will happen to them if the van crashes</span><span>”</span><span>. [<a href="http://www.richmond.gov.uk/areviewofsafeguardinginthesecureestate2008_-_summary.pdf">PDF</a>] Some children were given plastic bags to urinate in, a demeaning practice reported by inspectors as recently as March 2014.</span></p><p>Deborah Coles is the co-director of INQUEST and has been working for the charity since before teenager Philip Knight hanged himself in an adult prison in Swansea in 1990. She told me:</p><blockquote><p>“I didn’t have children when I was involved with Philip Knight, and 1994 was when [my son] was born and I do think that, as my kids have grown up, and you see the vulnerability of your own kids who are in supportive environments with food on the table, have got a home, are relatively stable or go to a nice school, and then you look at these kids who are in prison, it just makes you ... it hits you in a different way actually, it makes you even more ashamed.”</p></blockquote><p>Since Philip’s death, inquests have recorded a verdict of suicide for 12 children’s deaths in penal custody, and accidental death for eight of the children. There were four narrative verdicts, five open verdicts, three verdicts of misadventure and one unlawful killing. Accidental death and misadventure are verdicts given when juries decide a death was unintended; narrative verdicts are detailed statements of the background issues surrounding a person’s death; and an open verdict means there was insufficient evidence to return another verdict.&nbsp;</p><p><span>All but four of the children whose deaths were judged to be suicide were known to have self-harmed in the past or were being monitored at the time of their death. You wouldn’t have to be a child psychiatrist to doubt whether the remaining four could withstand imprisonment. One had developed serious alcohol problems after the death of his mother from cancer on his 14th birthday. Another had severe learning difficulties and was worried about his parents who both had cancer. A third child had endured chronic bullying and requested to be placed in segregation for his own safety. The parents of the fourth child criticised &nbsp;the prison for not allowing their son his medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.</span></p> <p>Two of the 33 children who died as prisoners, 15-year-old Gareth Myatt and 14-year-old&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-12297125">Adam Rickwood</a>, were held in secure training centres run by G4S and Serco respectively. These boys died four months apart, 10 years ago, after being subject to appalling forms of restraint.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GARETH MYATT 400.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GARETH MYATT 400.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gareth Myatt</span></span></span></p><p>Before he lost consciousness, Gareth told the three guards holding him down that he could not breathe. The response was that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">if he could speak he could breathe</a>. He died minutes later from positional asphyxia. The Youth Justice Board suspended the use of the seated double embrace, the authorised hold used on Gareth, two months later.</p> <p>Adam was subject to ‘nose distraction’ — the official euphemism for a severe assault to the nose —&nbsp;just hours before he was found hanging in his cell. Adam’s nose bled for about an hour, and his request to go to hospital for an X-ray was refused. He left behind a note asking what gave staff the right to hit a child in the nose. </p><p>Ministers eventually withdrew this particular technique. However, the deliberate infliction of pain by other methods remains.</p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ADAMRICKWOOD_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ADAMRICKWOOD_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="440" height="248" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Adam Rickwood</span></span></span>None of the 33 child deaths in prison has been dignified with a public inquiry. Adam Rickwood’s mother told me she is still not certain what her son was wearing when he lost consciousness, since the prison had mislaid some of his clothes.</span></p><p>She described Hassockfield secure training centre in County Durham as “the scariest place I have ever witnessed”. Adam himself, in one letter home, described “a 30-foot wall and cage all around me”.</p> <h3>Politicians and large unpleasant thugs</h3> <p>Michael Howard, the home secretary who signed the first contract for a secure training centre, famously said in 1993 that child offenders “are adult in everything except years”.&nbsp;</p> <p>Fifteen years later, Labour’s secretary of state for justice, Jack Straw, was asked whether he would reverse the UK’s standing in Europe as the greatest child incarcerator. <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm080610/debtext/80610-0003.htm">He replied: </a></p><p>“Most young people who are put into custody are aged 16 and 17 – they are not children; they are often large, unpleasant thugs, and they are frightening to the public.”</p> <p>On that very day, <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm080610/text/80610w0029.htm">Straw’s prisons minister told parliament</a> there were 458 children in young offender institutions and secure training centres who were known to be at risk of self-harm, 419 at known risk of drug dependency, 310 with known mental health problems and 91 at known risk of bullying. Nearly 400 children were in prison for the first time.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p>The justice secretary should have been aware that, of the 30 child deaths in custody there had been at the time of his speech, 24 were children aged 16 or 17. All 30 of the dead children were boys.</p> <p>The coalition government’s justice secretary Chris Grayling <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10164447/Crackdown-on-perks-for-young-offenders.html">announced through the Daily Telegraph in July 2013</a> that his department was reviewing the punishment and rewards scheme in child prisons: “It seems ludicrous to me that we dole out privileges regardless of how children behave,” he wrote. “Luxuries must be a reward for good behaviour not an automatic right.” </p> <p>An international review of prison mother and baby units observed that girls in the G4S-run Rainsbrook secure training centre “can even earn the privilege of putting posters on the walls”. [<a href="http://www.communitymatters.govt.nz/vwluResources/WCMT_Libby_Robins_2011_Final/$file/WCMT_Libby_Robins_2011_Final.pdf">PDF</a>]</p> <p>Grayling asserted that children would <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/early-lights-out-for-young-offenders">“face tough sanctions”</a> for breaching a 10.30 pm lights and television curfew.</p> <p>There are many reasons children come to rely on artificial light and television and radio into the early hours, including fear, loneliness and restlessness. </p> <p>I have spoken with children who have had everything removed from their cells as a sanction, including photographs and education certificates from walls. Not one of them has ever told me that this helped improve their behaviour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span>This is the first of three edited extracts from&nbsp;</span><span><a href="http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781447321538">Children Behind Bars</a></span><span><a href="http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781447321538">: why the abuse of child imprisonment must end</a>. Part two tomorrow: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/carolyne-willow/mothers-and-sons-on-children-who-have-died-in-uk-prisons">Mothers and sons. On children who have died in UK prisons</a>. And Wednesday: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/carolyne-willow/sex-abusers-guarding-britain’s-most-vulnerable-children">The sex abusers guarding Britain’s most vulnerable children</a>.&nbsp;Detailed references can be found in the book.&nbsp;</span></p><p><a href="http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781447321538">Children Behind Bars</a><span>&nbsp;can be purchased from Policy Press&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781447321538">here</a><span>&nbsp;(</span><span>£12.99&nbsp;</span><span>plus £2.75 postage and packing). Subscribers to the Policy Press newsletter receive a 35 per cent discount. You can sign up&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.policypress.co.uk/subscribe.asp">here</a><span>.</span></p><p><span>Original illustration is by&nbsp;<a href="http://reecewykes.com/">Reece Wykes</a>,&nbsp;working in charcoal, digitally enhanced. Wykes is&nbsp;a London-based illustrator and animator freshly graduated from Kingston University. He tweets&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ReeceWykes">@ReeceWykes</a></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/children-suffer-racist-abuse-and-degrading-treatment-by-guards-high-on-d">Children suffer racist abuse and ‘degrading treatment’ by guards high on drugs at G4S Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/many-thousands-of-children-stripped-naked-in-custody-ignites-memories-of">Many thousands of children stripped naked in custody. Ignites memories of being raped</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/lets-respond-to-englands-riots-with-decency-not-by-demonising-our-childr">Let&#039;s respond to England&#039;s riots with decency, not by demonising our children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">G4S guard fatally restrains 15 year old - gets promoted</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/concealment-and-trickery-thats-g4s-childrens-homes">Concealment and trickery - that&#039;s G4S children&#039;s homes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-crook/pregnant-teenager-imprisoned-for-failing-to-keep-appointments-with-her-sup">Pregnant teenager imprisoned for failing to keep appointments with her supervisor</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-crook/our-youth-justice-systems-fatal-flaw-it-is-harming-children">Our youth justice system&#039;s fatal flaw: it is harming children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-crook/we-in-uk-punish-girls-for-being-vulnerable">We in the UK punish girls for being vulnerable</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/andrew-neilson/new-report-confirms-problems-of-short-custodial-sentences-for-children">New report confirms problems of short custodial sentences for children</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk ShineALight G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Shine A Light Carolyne Willow Mon, 22 Jun 2015 03:54:42 +0000 Carolyne Willow 92817 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Human rights, why should I care? More real life stories https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/adam-wagner/human-rights-why-should-i-care-more-real-life-stories <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align: left;">The state took three lives. A hospital discharged a suicidal young woman. The police unlawfully tapped a man’s phone.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">Three stories from&nbsp;</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://rightsinfo.org/">RightsInfo</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">:</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CARMEN_MAIN_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CARMEN_MAIN_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="348" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Carmen Proetta, whose account of the Gibraltar shooting contradicted the official story (“Death on the Rock” Thames TV 1988)</span></span></span></p><h2><span>Death on the rock</span></h2> <p><span>Some time before 4 March 1988, UK authorities became aware of a plan by the Provisional IRA (Irish Republican Army) to carry out a terrorist attack on Gibraltar.&nbsp;They expected the attack to take the form of a bomb hidden in a car.&nbsp;Soldiers were sent to Gibraltar to help the police arrest the suspected IRA members. They were told that the suspects were dangerous and likely to be armed. The soldiers were instructed not to use more force than was necessary to protect life.</span></p> <p>When the suspects crossed the border from Spain to Gibraltar, they could have been arrested. But they weren’t. They were allowed to enter Gibraltar and go to the area where it was suspected that the bombing would take place.&nbsp;There, the three suspects – Daniel McCann, Mairéad Farrell and Sean Savage – were shot and killed by the soldiers. It was later discovered that they were unarmed and carried no device which could set off a bomb, although eventually a car containing explosives was found in Spain.</p> <p>The European Court of Human Rights cast no judgment on the soldiers who carried out the shootings and said that the use of force can be justified if there is an honest, but mistaken, belief of danger. But the Court also said that allowing the suspects to enter Gibraltar was a serious miscalculation by those in control, which made a fatal shooting likely.&nbsp;Coupled with their automatic resort to deadly force, the authorities had failed to adequately take into consideration the right to life of the three suspects. It was a use of force which was more than was absolutely necessary to defend others.</p> <p>This case was controversial. The judges were split 10 against 9. When we’re talking about the state taking life, the only justification can be necessity. There has to be no other way. If there is another way, taking life is disproportionate.</p> <p>This story is a short summary of a legal judgment. <a href="http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-57943">You can read the full judgment here</a>. Media coverage <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/sudden-death-and-the-long-quest-for-answers-1603189.html">here</a>.</p> <h2>Risk to life</h2> <p>“Melanie Rabone hanged herself from a tree in Lyme Park, Cheshire. She was 24 years of age and was the loved daughter of Mr and Mrs Rabone.”</p> <p>This powerful statement by a judge still doesn’t capture the extent of the tragedy. Melanie was admitted to hospital after a suicide attempt. She was assessed as being at ‘high risk’ of another attempt. But she was allowed to go home, instead of being kept in hospital to receive care. The next day she went to Lyme Park, carrying her own noose in her hands.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/rabone.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/rabone.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="180" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Melanie Rabone</span></span></span>Melanie’s parents believed the hospital had been negligent: the hospital knew how vulnerable she was, but still let her leave because she was a ‘voluntary’ patient, that is, she wasn’t detained at the hospital. The existing UK law could not help them. Melanie was 24. In the eyes of domestic law, a parent’s loss is only recognised if their child is younger than 18. In the eyes of the existing law, her parents suffered no loss. But in the real, breathing, feeling world Melanie’s parents had suffered the greatest loss they could.</p> <p>The Human Rights Act overcame this gaping hole in domestic law. The Act enshrines a right to life. This means public authorities, including the National Health Service, a duty to take active steps to protect individuals under threat – including from themselves. Breaching this duty is unjustifiable when there is a real and immediate risk to life, and reasonable actions could protect that person. The Supreme Court accepted the hospital had an important duty of care to Melanie. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-16945623">The judges said</a> it was simple and feasible to stop her from leaving this care. Melanie’s right to life had therefore been violated, and her parents were indeed victims.</p> <p>After the judgment, Melanie’s father said it achieved something worthwhile. Because of it, fewer parents would suffer the horrors contained in the statement at the beginning.</p> <p>This story is a short summary of a legal judgment. <a href="http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2012/2.html">You can read the full judgment here</a>.&nbsp;<span>Media Coverage:</span><span>&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-16945623">BBC News</a><span>,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2012/02/14/analysis-rabone-and-the-rights-to-life-of-voluntary-mental-health-patients-part-22/">UK Human Rights Blog</a>.</p><h2><a href="http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2012/02/14/analysis-rabone-and-the-rights-to-life-of-voluntary-mental-health-patients-part-22/"></a><span>The police were listening</span></h2> <p>When should police be able to listen to our private phone calls? Is being suspected of a crime a good enough reason? What if you’ve already been acquitted?</p> <p>In 1984, James Malone was accused of handling stolen goods. During the the trial, the prosecution used&nbsp;evidence that could only have been obtained through listening to one of his phone calls. Malone believed this was just the tip of the iceberg – he’d suspected for a number of years that both his phone conversations, and his letters, were being spied upon. When challenged, the police admitted that they had tapped his phone, but argued that this was legal&nbsp;as they had obtained a warrant from the Home Secretary.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/malone_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/malone_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="195" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>James Malone</span></span></span>Malone was acquitted, but even after the trial, he continued to hear strange noises as though somebody was listening to his calls. He asked for any remaining devices to be removed, but was told nothing could be done. Finally, he brought a case against the police, arguing that the simple fact of obtaining a warrant did not mean that tapping his phone was or ever had been legal.</p> <p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/2/newsid_2526000/2526957.stm">The European Court agreed</a>, ruling that James Malone’s right to a private life had been violated. While the European Convention on Human Rights means that surveillance may&nbsp;sometimes be necessary to prevent crime, in this case the UK had not been acting in accordance with the law. The requirement to obtain a warrant was in practice arbitrary, as there was no guidance available saying in which circumstances these would be granted. So today, the police can listen to your phone calls, but they need a reason which will stand up in court.</p> <p>This story is a short summary of a legal judgment. <a href="http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/1984/10.html">You can read the full judgment here</a>.&nbsp;<span>Media coverage:&nbsp;</span><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/2/newsid_2526000/2526957.stm">BBC News On This Day</a>.</p> <h2><a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/">RightsInfo</a></h2> <p>The Conservative government wants to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. We don’t yet know what that will look like. Meanwhile, public debate is fogged by misinformation and lack of understanding. Human rights&nbsp;advocates need to convey to people why human rights matters to&nbsp;<em>them</em>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>These three short stories about real human rights cases were first posted on a new site,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/">RightsInfo</a>, which provides clear and reliable information about why human rights matter. The stories were written by the <a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/about">RightsInfo Project Volunteers</a> and edited by Adam Wagner. RightsInfo is turning 50 key human rights cases into plain-English stories and publishing one each weekday. You can find the full list&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/">here</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-elstein/death-on-rock-21-years-later-and-still-official-version-lives-on">&quot;Death on the Rock&quot;: 21 years later and still the official version lives on</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/adam-wagner/human-rights-why-should-i-care-real-life-stories">Human rights, why should I care? Real life stories</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/meghan-campbell/future-of-human-rights-in-uk-0">The future of human rights in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/connor-johnston/in-defence-of-human-rights-act-laws-must-change-with-society">In defence of the Human Rights Act - laws must change with society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/geoffrey-bindman/coalition-deadlock-over-law-and-politics-of-human-rights">Coalition deadlock over the law and politics of human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk ShineALight Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Great Charter Convention Shine A Light Adam Wagner Mon, 08 Jun 2015 23:05:28 +0000 Adam Wagner 93354 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Human rights, why should I care? Real life stories https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/adam-wagner/human-rights-why-should-i-care-real-life-stories <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Victims of the black cab rapist were not believed. A man who suffered a miscarriage of justice could not speak to journalists. Four children suffered abuse and neglect. Three stories from <a href="http://rightsinfo.org">RightsInfo</a>:</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/****4sibs pagesBIG.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/****4sibs pagesBIG.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="246" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>European Court of Human Rights judgment in the case of four children who suffered abuse and neglect.</span></span></span></p><h2><span>The black cab rapist</span></h2><p>In 2009, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26383541">John Worboys</a>, the ‘black cab rapist’, was found guilty of sexually assaulting 12 women. Police now believe he used ‘date-rape’ drugs to attack over 100 female customers between 2002 and 2008. Women known as DSD and NBV both reported their belief that they had been raped to the police. Both felt that during and after the investigations, the police didn’t&nbsp;believe their stories or take&nbsp;the inquiries seriously.</p><p>The question in this case was whether human rights was&nbsp;whether the police, in failing to investigate allegations effectively, subjected victims to&nbsp;“inhuman and degrading treatment”, breaching the Human Rights Convention.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/black cab rapist.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/black cab rapist.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="251" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Date-rape drugs confuse victims and often cause them to lose their memories. The difficulty this causes for women who suspect they may have been raped is recognised in police guidelines relating to drug-related assault. The Court found that in many attacks subsequently attributed to Worboys, these guidelines were not followed. Police neither believed allegations, nor conducted enquiries properly. This had a profoundly damaging effect on the women’s mental health, and meant that the police failed to ‘join the dots’ between similar cases for over 6 years.</p><p>The Court said the&nbsp;failings did result in in&nbsp;“inhuman and degrading treatment”. This shows how important it is that authorities take seriously and investigate thoroughly accusations of sexual assault.</p><p>Many women Worboys attacked only felt able to come forward after he had been accused because they were afraid that they, like DSD and NBV, would not be believed. Recognising women’s legal&nbsp;<em>right</em>&nbsp;to be heard means that police must treat women in this situation as potential victims of serious crime, who must have&nbsp;their reports properly investigated. More broadly, this will hopefully contribute to undermining the victim-blaming attitude that persists around sexual violence, focussing on the attacker’s culpability rather than the women’s conduct.&nbsp;</p><p>This story is a short summary of a legal judgment.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2014/2493.html" target="_blank">You can read the full judgment here</a>.</p> <h2><span>Screaming to an empty room</span></h2> <p>Imagine being accused of a crime you didn’t commit. Imagine if&nbsp;the accusation&nbsp;led to you spending the rest of your life behind bars. Worse, imagine if there was no way for you to tell your side of the story, if you were left screaming to an empty room.</p> <p>Ian Simms and Michael O’Brien were convicted of separate murders. They persistently protested their innocence. They ran out of options in the courts and&nbsp;decided to try and get a journalist to investigate, so they could tell their side of the story. But&nbsp;the prison refused to let them speak to a journalist.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/O&#039;BRIEN.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/O&#039;BRIEN.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Simms and O’Brien took the prison to court, saying that the ability of the prison&nbsp;to refuse to allow journalists to visit and interview prisoners was in breach of their freedom of speech. The court agreed with them, saying that journalists should be able to interview prisoners as a way of making sure there were no miscarriages of justice. </p><p>The judge said that freedom of speech was necessary in the&nbsp;<span>“</span><span>exposure of errors</span>”&nbsp;<span>of the criminal justice system. The case is famous because&nbsp;the court said that if the state wants to interfere with fundamental rights, like free speech, it has to do so clearly and explicitly. “Fundamental rights”, said Lord Hoffmann, “cannot be overridden by general or ambiguous words”.</span></p> <p>After this case, prison policy in the UK was changed. Journalists are now allowed to interview prisoners so that they can help them investigate and challenge any miscarriages of justice. Meanwhile,&nbsp;O’Brien was released and exonerated of murder. Simms, however, was not. He remains in prison.</p> <p><a href="http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/1999/33.html">Full judgment here</a>. BBC coverage of the issue <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/389435.stm">here</a>.</p><h2>Listen to me</h2><p>Four siblings were born between 1982 and 1988. On numerous occasions between 1987 and 1992 &nbsp;grandparents, teachers and neighbours told others they were worried about the children. In 1987 the oldest child was reported to be stealing food, in 1988 a neighbour reported that the children were locked outside the house for most of the day and in 1989 the house was searched and found to be filthy. Used dirty nappies were discarded in a cupboard and the children’s mattresses were sodden with urine.</p> <p>Social services were alerted… again… and again. They helped very little. In 1992, the mother cried out&nbsp;that she could no longer cope and threatened to batter the children if no one stepped in. The children were finally taken into care. They were seen by a psychiatrist who said it was the worst case of physical and emotional neglect she had seen and that social services had “leant over backwards to avoid putting the children on the Child Protection Register and had delayed too long, leaving at least three of the children with serious psychological disturbance as a result”.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/****4sibs pages.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/****4sibs pages.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="170" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The children’s guardian took social services to court for failing to protect them from abuse. The English court said it had&nbsp;no remedy for them. To let them sue social services&nbsp;would encourage future families to do the same and make&nbsp;social workers over-cautious.</p> <p>So they took the case to the European Court of Human Rights. The Court said the children had been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. The local authority failed in their duty to protect them. They were awarded £32,000 each to reflect the pain and distress they endured.</p> <p>The children continued to suffer depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and lack of integration in education and society. Money was never going to make good what went wrong. But this case may make social workers that bit more unlikely to ignore&nbsp;warnings. <a href="http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/2001/333.html">Full judgment here</a><span>.</span></p><h2><a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/">RightsInfo</a></h2><p><span><span>The Conservative government wants to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. We don</span>’<span>t yet know what that will look like. Meanwhile, public debate is fogged by misinformation and lack of understanding. Human rights&nbsp;</span></span><span>advocates need to convey to people why human rights matters to</span><span>&nbsp;</span><em>them</em><span>.&nbsp;</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>These three short stories about real human rights cases were first posted on a new site,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/">RightsInfo</a>, which provides clear and reliable information about why human rights matter. The stories were written by the <a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/about">RightsInfo Project Volunteers</a> and edited by Adam Wagner. RightsInfo is turning 50 key human rights cases into plain-English stories and publishing one each weekday. You can find the full list&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rightsinfo.org/">here</a>.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/meghan-campbell/future-of-human-rights-in-uk-0">The future of human rights in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/connor-johnston/in-defence-of-human-rights-act-laws-must-change-with-society">In defence of the Human Rights Act - laws must change with society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/geoffrey-bindman/coalition-deadlock-over-law-and-politics-of-human-rights">Coalition deadlock over the law and politics of human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk ShineALight Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Great Charter Convention Shine A Light Adam Wagner Sun, 24 May 2015 23:00:00 +0000 Adam Wagner 92958 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why are so many people being evicted in Coalition Britain? https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/why-are-so-many-people-being-evicted-in-coalition-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Caught in a collision of unemployment, precarious jobs and reduced public services. Part three of our series on the housing crisis: Losing your home.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4b1_co_002.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4b1_co_002.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="653" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>In Britain poor people in social housing live under constant threat of eviction. Lose one week’s work and you risk losing your home. Someone makes a mistake on your housing benefit and you are one step away from sleeping rough. In 2014 more than <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/403192/mortgage-landlord-possession-tables-october-december-2014.xlsx">100,000 social landlords</a> issued possession claims against tenants. Most of those people face eviction because they can’t find the money to pay their rent. </p> <p>Bonnie, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/how-to-lose-your-home-one-day-at-coventry-county-court">the mother threatened with eviction in Coventry</a>, is 42. She’s on a zero-hours contract, so she doesn’t know how much money she will earn each month. Sometimes it is much less than her rent. Even if Bonnie is saved from eviction today, in her current job she will always be close to missing a rent payment, always one step away from losing her home. </p> <p>It’s difficult to apply for housing benefit while balancing insecure work. It’s complicated, takes time. Meanwhile the debt piles up. </p> <p>Where can you turn for help? The safety net of Citizen’s Advice Bureaux, women’s refuges and law centres has been damaged by cuts. </p> <p>Cuts to legal aid mean people in need have limited or no access to debt, employment, housing and welfare benefits advice. People like Carla.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Sue James, a social justice campaigner and housing solicitor with more than 20 years’ experience, is worried about Carla. The council, someone, should have stepped in sooner. Sue says: “She doesn’t seem like a person who can manage. I’m uncomfortable, she needs more handholding.” But there isn’t time. </p> <p>Sue is duty solicitor at the County Court in Brentford, a small town on the outskirts of West London. She’s there to assist tenants facing eviction from council homes. </p> <p>While waiting for the judge to call them in, Carla, a thin black woman with scuffed shoes and unkempt hair, speaks to Sue. She is crying.</p> <p>Carla earns between £900 and £1,000 a month after tax and receives £20.70 a week in child benefit. Her rent is £521 a month. She lives in a council flat and owes her landlord £3,000 in rent arrears. </p> <p>The council wants to evict her because she hasn’t made regular payments towards her debt. At a previous eviction hearing five months ago, Carla agreed a deal with the council. She would pay £50 a month towards her debt and seek debt counselling. Carla has fallen behind in payments by £61, that’s why she is in court today.</p> <p>In the judge’s chambers, Carla has stopped crying. She is seated at a long table next to Sue, and opposite two rent officers, the judge at the head. As they talk and discuss the details of her case, Carla is immobile. Her winter coat has fallen half way down her body. She doesn’t pull it up or take it fully off. She looks over the heads of the rent officers, into the distance out of the window, her expression vacant. It’s an eerie contrast to her earlier distress. </p> <p>Sue says that rather than evicting her, the council must offer Carla help to sort out her eligibility for welfare benefits. The Department for Work and Pensions stopped her child tax credits and disability benefit for her son a few months earlier. When Carla rang up the department, they said she is not eligible for housing benefit. </p> <p>The judge, a white middle-aged man with glasses, says: “I’m a little concerned that everyone is gathered today but we don’t know what’s happened. On these figures you would expect to see some kind of benefit.” Both rent officers shift in their seats, Carla stares ahead, unflinching. </p> <p>The judge orders Carla to pay £50 a month plus £521 in rent. The judges adjourns the hearing for 90 days in order that Carla be referred to money advice, a debt scheme run by the council. Outside, Carla’s expression is blank as Sue tells her to sort out her benefits before the next hearing. Carla, dazed, coat askew, slowly walks from the court. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4b2_co_001.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4b2_co_001.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="653" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Benefit problems are a recurring theme. Sue would like to refer clients like Carla to a law centre that specialises in benefits. But legal aid for welfare<strong> </strong>benefits taken out of scope. “We’ve got no-one to refer them to,” she says.</p> <p>“Zero-hours contracts are a big issue here too. We are seeing a lot of people at crisis point, it’s difficult to get them before this crisis stage.” Sue works for Hammersmith &amp; Fulham law centre, a registered charity that covers housing, immigration and public law. </p> <p>Hammersmith &amp; Fulham was one of the first high street law clinics to open in Britain in the 1970s when radical lawyers sought to provide free legal advice in working class areas. Underpinning their efforts was a commitment to social justice. Three decades later, people need this support more than ever.</p> <p>A report published last summer says welfare reform could lead to people becoming more vulnerable, not less. <a href="http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/housing-benefit-size-criteria-FULL.pdf"><em>Housing Benefit Size Criteria: Impact for Social Tenants and Options for Reform</em></a><em> </em>published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation investigates the first year of the bedroom tax. The bedroom tax costs working-age welfare claimants between 14 and 25 per cent of their housing benefit if they happen to live in social rented housing deemed too large for their needs.</p> <p>The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that cutbacks in support made people on low incomes in and out of work more vulnerable to debt, at risk of eviction and short of core necessities like energy and food. </p> <p>The report notes that some housing associations have upped their support for vulnerable tenants by providing debt advice, and separating this support from regular rent collection. </p> <p>Even so, housing associations “increasingly exclude the poorest applicants from new lettings and so exacerbate the risk of rising homelessness,” the report says. </p> <p>This is partly because of pressure on housing associations to build more. And that’s sure to increase if the Conservative Party’s right to buy plans are implemented. It means housing associations, which are non-profit organisations, cannot afford the extra costs of debt-burdened tenants. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4b3_co_001.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4b3_co_001.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="653" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Dwindling social housing stocks is another factor in rising evictions. In England last year <a href="http://www.cih.org/news-article/display/vpathDCR/templatedata/cih/news-article/data/Even_more_social_rented_homes_lost_in_2014_than_in_2013">44,000 social homes were lost</a> through right to buy or conversions to more expensive rents. This is up from just over 19,000 the year before that. These stats take into account the number of new homes built: just 28,000 in 2014. </p> <p>London councils have responded by <a href="http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2015/22.html">moving people to different boroughs, and out of the city.</a> Vicky Fewkes, a housing solicitor from Ealing law centre in West London, says people are often moved into temporary accommodation with little security against eviction. “If a council tenant placed in temporary accommodation gets into rent arrears, the landlord can often evict very easily. Rent in temporary accommodation is extremely high so change in circumstances, finding a job, having a baby, can mean a quick suspension of Housing Benefit, which could run up thousands in arrears in the space of a couple of months.&nbsp; People are left battling with the same Council’s Housing Benefit department to sort out the problem and avoid eviction,” she says.</p> <p>In one case an elderly man living in temporary accommodation with his wife and four children owed more than £8,000 in rent arrears. A year ago he suffered a cardiac arrest and has been out of work since. His wife is his full-time carer. His children are aged between 11 and 21. Rent is £500 a week. The family’s benefits are capped, so they are short by £279 every week. The benefit cap is a coalition government policy introduced in 2013 which caps the total welfare benefits a household can receive. </p> <p>The family was eventually evicted with £250 court costs added to their debt.</p> <p>Vicky says: “An alternative is getting people into private rented accommodation. However this is now almost impossible. A few years ago people would happily go for private tenancies, but now they are advised by the Council to look at private rented accommodation and can’t find landlords to take people with Housing Benefits. People are trying their best but after weeks of attempting to find affordable private rented accommodation they have no option but to make a homelessness application.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4b4_co_002.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4b4_co_002.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="653" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>The lack of political interest in improving social housing provision has hit the poor at a time when other safety nets are being withdrawn. People are caught in a collision of unemployment, precarious jobs and reduced public services. </p> <p>Many have responded by helping each other find places to live, by fighting evictions and protesting poor council decision making. The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Focus-E15-Mothers/602860129757343">Focus E15 campaign</a>, the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/neweraestatetenants">New Era protests</a> and the <a href="http://housingactivists.co.uk/">Lambeth housing activists</a> are just some of the housing community groups created by residents. In Kilburn, north west London, former PR manager Gabi contacted a local unemployed workers collective when she faced eviction. After spreading the word on social media, three people turned up to blockade the house on her first eviction date.&nbsp; </p> <p>“The council tried to kick me out last week. I feel like just going into their office and breaking everything. I am so frustrated,” says Gabi, the lilt in her London accent (her parents are from Liberia and Ghana) becoming more pronounced. “I like my life to be private, I don’t want to be in council housing. I thought the council was supposed to help you move on.” </p> <p>Gabi, petite, 35<strong>,</strong> dressed in faded skinny jeans, trainers and a bright turquoise fleece two sizes too big for her, is tired. She is killing time, pacing the streets with her small son in a flimsy push chair. It hurts to walk; she recently had a fibroid operation. </p> <p>Gabi has spent two years fighting for maintenance from her son’s dad. Mum and baby, now a cute three year old with brown curly hair, lived in hostels to save money, before moving to private rented accommodation last year. After they were unlawfully evicted from that property in December, the council housed them in a bed and breakfast hotel in west London where they stayed ever since. </p> <p>Then the council offered Gabi permanent accommodation in Basildon, Essex, more than 30 miles from London. She refused, reluctant to leave London and friends nearby who can look after her son for free while she’s in and out of hospital. “I’m a single mother, I can’t do it alone.” But the council has discharged its duty, which means she and her son will be homeless.</p> <p>The friendly hotel manager where Gabi is staying says the council told him she has to be out by 11am on Monday, in three days time. It’s the second eviction date she’s been given, though the council never write to Gabi herself. </p> <p>The Kilburn Unemployed Workers group, an eclectic mix of Londoners of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, is open to anyone in need of welfare benefits or housing advice. They meet every week to support each other. One of the members went with Gabi to her Citizens Advice bureau and, when they couldn’t help, to Glenda Jackson, the local MP. </p> <p>They want to protest Gabi’s eviction on Monday, but Gabi is unsure. While pleased with the solidarity, she isn’t interested in finding another council house in London. For peace of mind, she wants out of council housing and thinks she can survive in private rented accommodation on child maintenance payments, child benefit and housing benefit. She has booked an appointment with the jobcentre tomorrow and hopes to find work soon.</p> <p>Meanwhile, there’s a flat to view in an hour, which will cost £415 a week. Gabi has enough saved for a deposit. After that her income is uncertain. She bites her lip and looks down at her son —&nbsp;he’s trying to jump out of the moving push chair. “Should I do it? Is it worth the risk?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <ul><li><em>Tenants</em><em>’&nbsp;names have been changed.</em></li><li><em>This is the final article in a three part series on housing in Coalition Britain.&nbsp;</em></li><li><em>See Part One:&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/how-to-lose-your-home-one-day-at-coventry-county-court">Losing your home: one day at Coventry County Court</a>.&nbsp;</em></li><li><em>Part Two: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/how-to-lose-your-home-simon%E2%80%99s-story">Losing your home: Simon’s story</a></em></li><li><em><br /></em></li><li><em>Original illustrations by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.patrickkoduah.com/">Patrick Koduah</a>.&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.patrickkoduah.com/">Patrick</a>&nbsp;is a London based animator and illustrator whose prizewinning work includes projects exhibited in the Embassy of Japan, commissioned portraiture of Prince Michael of Kent and music video animation for a recent Rolling Stone Magazine Band of the Year.</em></li></ul> <p><strong><em>This work takes time. Please donate to OurKingdom&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate">here&nbsp;</a>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/losing-your-home-one-day-at-coventry-county-court">Losing your home: one day at Coventry County Court</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/losing-your-home-simon-s-story">Losing your home: Simon’s story</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/down-rabbit-hole-single-parenthood-in-austerity-britain">Down the rabbit hole: Single parenthood in austerity Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/rats-in-lunchbox-mould-in-mattress-living-in-squalor-in-london">Rats in the lunchbox, mould in the mattress: living in squalor in London</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/lone-parent-trap">The lone parent trap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/deborah-padfield/who-benefits-from-benefit">Who benefits from benefit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/stuart-weir/basic-income-%E2%80%93-transforming-benefits-in-era-of-precariat">Basic income – transforming benefits in the era of the precariat</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk ShineALight Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Shine A Light Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Wed, 06 May 2015 23:00:40 +0000 Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi 92562 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Losing your home: Simon’s story https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/losing-your-home-simon-s-story <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">After caring for his elderly mother a 50-year-old builder faces eviction from a council flat.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Part two of our three part series on&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Coalition Britain</span>’<span style="line-height: 1.5;">s&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">housing crisis.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4a1_co_001.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4a1_co_001.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>A tall, broad-chested man with rounded shoulders, close cropped and a gold chin-stud approaches the red brick county court in West London for the second time in six months. Simon, 51, wears a pastel pink cotton shirt beneath a dark Parka for his second court appearance.</p> <p>At the far end of the waiting room there’s&nbsp;<span>a woman with shoulder-length black hair and glasses. He’s seen her before. She’s the one from the council who wants him out.</span></p> <p><span>There’s another woman, younger, suited and carrying a full lever arch file. She is the council’s barrister, hired to prepare an expert case for Simon’s eviction.</span></p> <p>Simon was working for a furniture warehouse in Hastings when his mum fell ill three years ago. She was 76 and frail, living alone on the top floor of an old Victorian terrace house, and found it difficult to go out without help. For a while Simon would visit once a month to take her shopping and run other errands. But when his work contract ended and his marriage began to fall apart, Simon decided to move to London and look after his mother full time. He moved into her flat, his childhood home, and helped with cooking, cleaning and shopping. </p> <p>One day while Simon was out, his mum suffered a bad fall. She was in the kitchen when her legs gave way. The downstairs neighbour remembers a loud thud. He called Simon, then called an ambulance. Simon’s mother spent a month in hospital and died four days before Christmas. This was 2013. </p> <p>“We were all under the impression that she was going to get stable and come home,” Simon says. “It was horrible. Christmas day I was just sitting there, and sitting there. The next three months I just did not know whether I was coming or going.”<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Simon’s mother’s home was a council flat. In January he called the council and told them she had died. He heard nothing more until one day a few weeks later.&nbsp; </p> <p>A heavy knock at the door, the woman from the council. She demanded Simon’s keys and told him it was time to move on. “I’m not giving the keys back,” said Simon. “I’ve got nowhere else to go.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4a2_co_002.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4a2_co_002.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="653" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Simon was five when his family moved into that flat in the large Victorian townhouse in Notting Hill, West London, an area once known for its slum housing and the corrupt landlord Peter Rachman. Simon’s family were council tenants paying a subsidised rent. The house was split into two flats, and the family of six lived in three bedrooms on the top floor. Simon’s dad Charlie was the local milkman. Long after he retired he’d spend hours in the street chatting to neighbours he’d known for decades.</p><p>They were a close knit family. Simon left home in his early twenties and moved to a flat a few streets away from his parents. “My Missus used to go down on a Thursday with the baby to see my sister, my mum and dad, and my brother. It was a regular thing when the kids were little.” Both his own grown-up children still live in the area with their families.</p><p><span>Simon left London after splitting with his first wife and eventually resettled in Hastings. For most of his life, he earned decent money self-employed in removals and construction work. But lately he’d struggled to get regular jobs. Sometimes there’d be weeks and months without anything. Now, after 30 years working independently, Simon wants a secure, 9 to 5 job.</span>A few days after the knock at the door Simon received an eviction notice. He took the notice to Hammersmith town hall, a bland building with row upon row of brown tinted windows. Inside, Simon spoke to an officer at the council’s housing advice centre. </p> <p>He was told: <em>There’s nothing we can do for you at the moment because you are not homeless. </em>Simon replied: <em>This letter is telling me I am going to court and I going to be homeless. </em></p> <p>The council officer said: <em>Until you go to court and they give you that final notice, we cannot do anything to help you.</em></p> <p>“But then I am going to be out on the street with nowhere to live,” Simon said. “Can’t we get the ball rolling now, so when the time comes, the process has started?”<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Baffled, he offered to hand the keys back, making himself officially homeless. </p> <p>Wrong move. That would make him intentionally homeless, removing any duty the council might have to re-house him. </p> <p>“You can’t win either way,” Simon says, shaking his head. “You are just bouncing from wall to wall. Deep down, I knew it was going to go that way.” Simon kept the keys and waited for the eviction process to begin. </p> <p>Simon thought he might qualify for a one-bedroom council flat or bedsit, but this was unlikely for many reasons. There is a shortage of social homes in the borough, and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/davehillblog/2014/may/19/hammersmith-and-fulham-social-housing-sales">Hammersmith &amp; Fulham council has been rapidly selling council properties and was even accused of wanting to get rid of social housing altogether.</a> Simon has no interest in politics, local or national. “I do not understand it at all. It’s not anything to do with me. I am not on a pension and I don’t own my own house, so politics don’t concern me whatsoever,” he shrugs, an apologetic smile on his face.</p> <p>The private rental market in Notting Hill proved as hopeless. Simon’s income from freelance building work is less than the £350 a week needed to rent a tiny one-bedroom flat. “I said to the fella in the estate agents, ‘If I find a flat for £400 a week, how do I go about it if I only earn £300, £400 a month? How can you do it?’”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4a3_co_001_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4a3_co_001_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="653" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Notting Hill still feels like home to Simon. People stop him in the street and ask: “Are you Charlie the milkman’s son?” A few doors down from his family’s old home an identical three-bedroom flat recently sold for £730K. The bidding for former council one-bed in need of a new kitchen and bathroom on the same street starts at £340K.&nbsp;</p><p>The timber yard where Simon sold building materials for much of his twenties is now a row of expensive shops, including a biscuiteers boutique and icing café, and a homewares and fashion store called Couverture &amp; the Garbstore. The family-run greasy spoon where he once bought bacon rolls for 70p is now a retro coffee shop. No more cheap butties; instead, variations of eggs benedict for £8-a-plate.&nbsp;</p><p>Simon wants to stay. He likes having family nearby and doesn’t relish a return to monthly trips to see his children and grandchildren. He’s tried local hostels, but they don’t allow pets. Simon has had his copper-haired Staffie for 10 years. “She’s like one of my kids. If I had to get rid of her, I don’t think she’s going to survive.”</p><p>That winter work stopped coming in. It had been one year since Simon’s mother died and he faced another miserable Christmas. He struggled to pay the council’s £20 a day occupancy fee. A council letter said he owed around £5,000 in unpaid rent.&nbsp;</p><p><span>Selling his truck offered brief respite. The money from the sale was “near enough done” by the time of his second court appearance in February 2015, one year after the first knock at the door. There was an outstanding bailiff’s bill to pay. His brother-in-law paid his last phone bill and gave him £30 for food. “All I want now is a permanent 9-5 job. I can just go in and do a week’s work, get a week’s money, pay a week’s rent. Then I know where I stand. That’s what I want. I am not getting any younger.”</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span>It’s unusually quiet at West London County Court, which means Simon gets twenty minutes with the duty solicitor, Sara, a sharp young woman from Hammersmith &amp; Fulham Law Centre. She beckons him into a small windowless room next to the waiting room.</p> <p>Simon sits down, leaning forward, places his hands —&nbsp;they’re tattooed with his grandchildren’s names — on the desk. He tells Sara his story, starting with his mum’s death. Sara is nodding, now and then interrupting with questions. She asks how many times he went to the town hall, what did they say. She scribbles Simon’s responses. Sara spots the support Simon should have received but didn’t. “There is an allocations issue,” she says. “They should have written you a letter and told you about the allocations policy.”</p> <p>The council’s official policy stipulates that in a succession case where a tenant doesn’t qualify, they should be considered for the housing list. Simon can’t inherit his mother’s council tenancy, because she had already inherited it from his dad and only one succession is allowed. When Simon went to the town hall, he should have been given information about the allocations policy.</p> <p>Sara leaves the room and rushes over to the council officer Simon recognised earlier. She comes back ten minutes later, frowning. The council’s lawyer won’t budge and wants to go ahead with the hearing in front of a judge. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4a4_co_001.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4a4_co_001.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="653" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Simon sits with his hands folded next to Sara at one end of the dark wooden bench. To their left sit the council officer and her barrister, flicking importantly through a packed folder. The well-spoken, austere judge sits two levels above them. </p> <p>There is some initial confusion over Simon’s first court appearance, which took place last October and resulted in an adjournment. It was a busy day and Simon can’t remember which duty solicitor represented him. That hearing was over in minutes; he hadn’t understood much of it.</p> <p>The council’s lawyer stands, a confident, smartly dressed woman. The situation remains the same, she says, the council seeks possession with notice quit. They want Simon out. Simon keeps his eyes on the judge, the legal jargon means little to him.</p> <p>Sara stands, she raises the allocations issue. She speaks with clarity and certainty, pushing her unruly blonde hair behind her ears. Sara asks for an adjournment to give Simon the chance to apply for a council property under the allocations policy. “The defendant [Simon] has approached the local authority about his situation,” she says. “They haven’t advised him of their allocation scheme. There is a policy where in a succession case, if a tenant doesn’t qualify they can be considered for the housing list.” Simon was never told this.</p> <p>The judge agrees to Sara’s request. “I won’t shut the door in his face immediately,” he says. The hearing is postponed for six weeks to allow Simon time to apply for housing. </p> <p>Outside courtroom, the waiting area is still quiet. “Did you understand that?” Sara asks. </p> <p>“No,” Simon says, shaking his head and laughing. He is just relieved. He had expected to leave court homeless; now he has a second chance.</p> <p>Back in the interview room they sit down. Sara is frank, her tone almost brusque. You must get housing benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance sorted today, she says, then you can qualify for legal aid. “The reality is you are not going to be successful in keeping the property. And they are probably not going to give you somewhere else.” Simon will have to find a solution to his housing problem.</p> <p>Simon stops smiling. “Last time I went to the Jobcentre I felt unwelcome,” he says. “I don’t know what to do. I need a job and need to do a CV, but I don’t know where to start.” </p> <p>“If there are barriers, just push through them,” Sara says, more than once, and you get the sense she’s said it before. “At least we are through today, the fact that they have been disorganised has helped you today.” </p> <p>Simon thanks her and leaves the court. “You hear on the telly about people losing their homes, but you never see the full reason why. You just think, how can you get like that? Well, you can. Here I am. It’s just something I’ve got to deal with. If they move me out I don’t know what I am going to do. I honestly don’t know.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><ul><li><em>Tenants</em><em>’&nbsp;names have been changed.&nbsp;</em><em>This is Part Two of a three part series on housing in Coalition Britain.&nbsp;</em></li><li><em><span>Read Part One:&nbsp;</span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/how-to-lose-your-home-one-day-at-coventry-county-court">Losing your home: one day at Coventry County Court</a>, and Part Three,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/how-to-lose-your-home-why-are-so-many-people-being-evicted-in-coa">Why are so many people being evicted in Coalition Britain?</a><span>&nbsp;</span></em></li></ul> <p><em>Original illustrations by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.patrickkoduah.com/">Patrick Koduah</a>.&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.patrickkoduah.com/">Patrick</a>&nbsp;is a London based animator and illustrator whose prizewinning work includes projects exhibited in the Embassy of Japan, commissioned portraiture of Prince Michael of Kent and music video animation for a recent Rolling Stone Magazine Band of the Year.</em></p> <p><strong><em>This work takes time. Please donate to OurKingdom&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate">here&nbsp;</a>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong><em>&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/why-are-so-many-people-being-evicted-in-coalition-britain">Why are so many people being evicted in Coalition Britain?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/losing-your-home-one-day-at-coventry-county-court">Losing your home: one day at Coventry County Court</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/down-rabbit-hole-single-parenthood-in-austerity-britain">Down the rabbit hole: Single parenthood in austerity Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/rats-in-lunchbox-mould-in-mattress-living-in-squalor-in-london">Rats in the lunchbox, mould in the mattress: living in squalor in London</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/lone-parent-trap">The lone parent trap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/deborah-padfield/who-benefits-from-benefit">Who benefits from benefit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/deborah-padfield/basic-income-basic-respect">Basic Income - basic respect</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/deborah-padfield/work-programme-people-and-economy-what%27s-happening">The Work Programme, people and economy: what&#039;s happening?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk ShineALight Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Shine A Light Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Tue, 05 May 2015 23:00:25 +0000 Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi 92558 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Losing your home: one day at Coventry County Court https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/losing-your-home-one-day-at-coventry-county-court <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Growing numbers of working class people face the<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;nightmare of eviction</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. Part one of</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;a three part series on housing in Coalition Britain.</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4c1_co_001_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4c1_co_001_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="653" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Gemma is mother to four children. She lives in a four-bedroomed house in Coventry, a post-industrial Midlands city where <a href="http://www.coventry.gov.uk/info/10/performance/1732/infographics_and_visualisations/5">one in four children</a> lives in poverty and <a href="http://coventrycentral.foodbank.org.uk/resources/documents/foodbank/reports/APPGStudyReport.pdf">foodbanks feed tens of thousands of families</a>. </p> <p>Recently diagnosed with depression, Gemma is receiving cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of counselling. </p> <p>Last year three of her children were taken away. When their empty bedrooms were declared spare rooms, she was charged an under-occupancy fee, taken directly from her housing benefit. Since the&nbsp; bedroom tax, as it’s known, was introduced in 2013, working age claimants who live in social rented housing deemed too large for their needs have lost between 14 and 25 per cent of their housing benefit.</p> <p>Gemma didn’t have the extra to cover the shortfall in her rent. She fell behind, eventually accruing a debt of nearly £1,748. The housing association landlord has threatened eviction.</p> <p>So Gemma, her dark hair pulled back from her drawn face, waits at Coventry county court, an imposing concrete and glass building that sits on a hill above the city centre. Here Gemma will find out if she is to lose her home.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>While politicians and the media have focused on rocketing house prices or the cost of housing benefit, something horrible has been happening to many thousands of social housing tenants. Last year&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/387420/CORE_Statistical_Release_2013-14.pdf">councils</a>&nbsp;and large&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/395678/20150115_-_SDR_Stats_Release_2014_-_v11.pdf">housing associations</a>&nbsp;across England evicted more than 14,000 tenants for rent arrears. That’s 19 per cent more than the year before.&nbsp;</p><p>The Conservative party’s plan to give housing association tenants the right to buy at a discounted rate&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/18/tory-cameron-hopkins-right-to-buy-home-sales-housing-association">will likely make the situation worse.</a>&nbsp;Housing associations are building more to meet demand, but building homes is expensive and could mean rent rises for poor tenants already struggling to pay their bills.</p><p>‘Secure tenancies’ – the type of tenancy typically offered by councils – are supposed to be just that. Tenants are supposed to have protection from unfair evictions. Before pursuing legal action, landlords are obliged to contact the tenant, discuss the rent arrears, assist in any housing benefit issues, make referrals to debt agencies if necessary, and negotiate a repayment plan. All this before issuing court proceedings. Local authorities also have statutory responsibilities around homelessness. So why are so many people getting evicted?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span>It’s the morning of her hearing and Gemma is in luck. There is a duty solicitor available who can represent her for free.</span></p> <p>Over the years, Lydia Nash, a young housing solicitor, has worked with hundreds of tenants on the cusp of homelessness. Before court Lydia stops by at Coventry Law Centre, a cramped office next door to Job Centre Plus. </p> <p>It’s just before nine. Two people sit in the large waiting room, its walls lined with leaflets explaining the benefit cap, changes to disability living allowance and other social welfare policy. </p> <p>A few of Lydia’s colleagues are already at their desks in an open-plan office above the waiting room.</p> <p>Clients nearly always need more than just representation in court, Lydia says. “There’s a lot of social work that needs to be done, so I refer them to other experts at the law centre.” </p> <p>It might be welfare benefits advice or debt and employment support from specialist advisors. Such work might help untangle problems like benefits maladministration, which can tip people into debt and mounting rent arrears. Lydia’s “social work” can stop things getting worse.</p> <p>But the coalition government’s cuts have taken much of this work out of the scope of legal aid funding at the very moment its policies are making clients’ problems worse. </p> <p>Lydia says: “Sanctions and the bedroom tax are major reasons our clients get into arrears.”</p> <p>She pulls on her coat, gathers up her folders and files, and walks over to the county court.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The duty solicitor’s office at Coventry County Court is a windowless box room. Lydia sits opposite Gemma. On the table between them there’s a notepad, files, case notes. Haltingly Gemma talks about her debt and depression. Lydia nods and writes.</p> <p>Gemma doesn’t want to move to a smaller home — she wants to get her children back. </p> <p>“When do you think you will get your children back?” Lydia says, looking down at her notebook. Her tone is brisk. She must elicit as many extenuating facts in the shortest possible time. Outside, twelvemore people wait to see her, all expecting to lose their homes today. </p> <p>Once Gemma’s story is told, Lydia sends her back to the waiting room. The next client comes in. </p> <p>In an office on the other side of the packed waiting room, the housing association’s team prepares their cases.</p> <p>A young man in a dark suit hovers by the door —&nbsp;the Housing Association’s lawyer — in case expert advice is needed. Two stern white women in their late 40s, early 50s maybe, sit at a long table, shuffling papers, exchanging notes. They’re the landlords’ rent officers. Along with the judge, they hold tenants’&nbsp;fates in their hands.&nbsp;</p><p> Now and then Lydia walks across the waiting room, clutching her paperwork and sits down at the long table, across from the rent officers. They discuss each person waiting to be evicted. Lydia asks that Gemma’s hearing be adjourned to a later date so her housing benefit problems can be sorted out. She might be eligible for a discretionary housing payment: emergency council funding for people on housing benefit who need extra help.</p> <p>The rent officers are cordial enough. They listen politely and refuse to allow Gemma more time. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4c2_co_001.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4c2_co_001.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Back in Lydia’s box room, Andrea, a heavily pregnant mother-of-three, sits down at the small desk. She couldn’t find the extra £14 a week to pay her bedroom tax. Now she owes nearly £1000. </p> <p>The housing association is seeking an outright possession order. If the judge rules against her today, she is likely to be homeless when her baby is born. </p> <p>Next, Shade, a young graduate. After finishing university she worked for three years at Premier Inn. She was sacked after falling asleep on a night shift. Since then she has struggled to earn more than £500-a-month from agency work on zero-hour contracts.</p> <p>Two months ago Shade applied for housing benefit. In the meantime she hasn’t been able to pay her rent in full. Her debt is a little over £1,300. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jocelyn, timid and petite, shrinks into the chair opposite Lydia. A smiling young woman pulls up a seat next to her. She’s a support worker provided by the troubled families programme, a <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/helping-troubled-families-turn-their-lives-around">central government project</a> designed to help families deemed difficult.</p> <p>Jocelyn says little, seems confused. Information emerges slowly and piecemeal. The government docks a slice of housing benefit because her adult son is of working age and lives at home. </p> <p>Jocelyn had an agreement with the landlord to pay £20 a fortnight toward rent arrears of £1,100. She paid the money from her Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), which was £72.40 a week. Then, one month ago, she was sanctioned and her JSA money stopped. It is not clear why. Benefit ‘sanctions’, the withholding of subsistence-level benefits from people who may have little or no other income, have caused rising concern. <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news/benefit-sanctions-report/">In March 2015 MPs</a> asked the Department of Work and Pensions to investigate how many of 49 recent suicides of benefits claimants were related to sanctions.</p> <p>Lydia works quickly to complete the picture, firing questions to Jocelyn. She schedules another interview, at the law centre, where Jocelyn will get help filling in the forms to apply for a discretionary housing payments and appeal against her sanction. </p> <p>Lydia goes off to negotiate with the rent officers. It’s news to them that Jocelyn was part of the troubled families programme. This tips the balance in Jocelyn’s favour. The officers agree to a one month adjournment. Meanwhile, Jocelyn must resume paying £20 a fortnight towards the arrears plus rent and court costs of £250 which, in almost every case, are added to the tenant’s debt. </p> <p>Ryan is the youngest person in the waiting room. He is 23. He wears a light grey tracksuit and carries a drawstring bag.</p> <p>Ryan’s debt will rise to more than £1,500 once court costs are added. He lost his job last summer and has been in and out of temporary work ever since. He gets Jobseeker’s Allowance of £57 a week and housing benefit for his rent. </p> <p>Ryan has a plan. He pulls up a chair in front of Lydia, leans back, adjusts his baseball cap and says, “I just want to get rid of the debt.”</p> <p>He wants to pay £100 a week to clear his arrears. Lydia advises realism. If the court orders him to pay £100 each week and he can’t pay, he’ll probably get evicted. To promise £100 is risky even if he finds a job tomorrow. Later, Ryan repeats his plan in court to the judge, ignoring Lydia’s advice. The judge takes a pragmatic view and orders Ryan to pay a more manageable £10 every two weeks instead. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4c3_co_001.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Project_4c3_co_001.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="653" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Jerome, a polite black man with plaited hair, pulls up a chair. </p> <p>Lydia looks up, ready to ask questions, but Jerome has started already: “If I lose my flat, I lose my kids. I don’t want to lose my flat or my kids.” He mostly lives alone and is separated from his children’s mother, but sees them regularly. A tenant since 2013, his arrears have fluctuated as he moved in and out of work. He lost his latest job at Christmas when the courier company <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21637450-why-collapse-delivery-firm-bad-news-conservatives-not-very-merry-christmas">City Link</a> collapsed</p> <p>He owes nearly £1,500. </p> <p>So here he is, aged 36, with no income, but a new job working in a warehouse which he says will start next week. </p> <p>Lydia picks up her notes on Jerome and heads to the rent officers’ room. One of the women says she knows this case. Jerome was offered money advice and ignored it, she says. She wants an outright possession order. The rent officers won’t back down, the judge will decide this one.</p> <p>Back to the box room for more interviews. It takes almost three hours to work through the cases. There’s Sean, struggling to make his £1100 monthly wage cover child maintenance, rent and food. A month ago he paid £450 towards his arrears and with £431 left to pay he cannot understand why he is in court today. Lydia wants him in court, so that the judge can see him, but Sean has only got the morning off work, it’s nearly noon, he’s got to go.</p> <p>Then there’s Bonnie, who owes a little over £1,000. Bonnie, 42, clothes crumpled and thick hair escaping a small ponytail, sits at the desk and waits for Lydia to speak. She’s lived in her flat for four years and always struggled with rent because her income varies month to month. </p> <p>“I work for an agency,” she says, “and sometimes I don’t have shifts, then I don’t have money for my rent.” Last week she only worked two shifts. Bonnie thinks she isn’t eligible for housing benefit because sometimes she works 40 hours a week. </p> <p>Her landlord wants an outright possession order. Bonnie tells Lydia she can pay £120 tomorrow and she thinks there might be a shift later that evening. Lydia nods and sends Bonnie back to the waiting room.</p> <p>Once Lydia has interviewed everyone, she clears her small desk and walks over to the usher’s desk, in the waiting room. </p> <p>The rent officers join her; they have split the client list in two, each will present the landlord’s case for eviction in front of the judge. An usher disappears to check the judge is ready. The tenants sit on low chairs, a few centimetres away, silent, watching.</p> <p>It’s noon. Bonnie gets up from her seat, glances at the clock, clasps and unclasps her hands, and nervously shifts her weight from foot to foot. She needs to collect her son from nursery at noon or she’ll have to pay late fees. </p> <p>She walks over to Lydia to ask how much longer till the hearing. Please stay if you can, says Lydia, it will look good that you turned up. </p> <p>The usher is back, the judge isn’t ready. Lydia asks, <em>Can you move Bonnie up the list? </em>The usher says yes, looks at her watch and disappears again. When she comes back and says the judge is ready, it is too late: Bonnie’s gone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The judge’s chambers, along a short corridor from the waiting room, are bright and spacious, with large windows. Leather-bound books and box files line the walls. </p> <p>It’s Jerome’s turn, the courteous warehouseman with the braided hair. He and Lydia sit on one side of long table. One of the rent officers sits opposite. The judge’s desk is adjacent; they crane their necks to face him.</p> <p>Judge Ridgeway, a slim middle-aged man in a long black robe, is encouraging, his tone gentle. He tells clients, “I’m glad you came, that’s the important thing”. He &nbsp;urges them to get help immediately when benefit or employment problems arise.</p> <p>After listening to the rent officer’s submissions and then Lydia’s arguments, he pauses briefly before delivering a verdict. He is impressed with Jerome’s payment history prior to the arrears and wants to give him a second chance. Jerome has one week to produce proof of his new job; if he fails the landlord can request an urgent hearing to evict him. Jerome smiles, stands up to leave, thanks the judge and tells him to have a nice day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The hearings continue, in most cases a debt repayment plan is agreed and the possession order temporarily suspended on condition that the tenant adheres to the plan. </p> <p>There are times when little can be done to help and people are evicted on leaving court. “They are then faced with homelessness and many people have nowhere to turn,” says Lydia. “There are limited options. They can go to their local authority for homelessness assistance, but many are found to be intentionally homeless because of their rent arrears or whatever reason resulted in them losing their home. They get no assistance at all. At best people end up in local hostels, though many people do face street homelessness. </p> <p>They can’t find the money for a deposit for a private property and even if they are able to many landlords are reluctant to take on housing benefit tenants.&nbsp; They lose their belongings and the lives that they have built up over many years often due to circumstances beyond their control.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the judge’s chamber Gemma sits next to Lydia, quiet, speaking only when asked a question. The judge accepts Gemma’s request for an adjournment. He orders that Gemma pay the minimum allowed, £3.65 a week, towards her arrears. That’s on top of her existing rent of £116 a week. Court costs of £250 are added, bringing Gemma’s arrears to a little over £2,000. On her current income that will take her more than 10 years to clear.</p> <p>The terms of these agreements are temporary. In most cases tenants are scheduled to return to court within six weeks. Meanwhile a single missed payment may trigger eviction. Even if Lydia is at court to represent tenants in these follow up hearings, it is difficult to convince a judge to rule in a tenant’s favour a second time. </p> <p>Gemma’s next eviction hearing will be in one month.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Gemma must successfully challenge her bedroom tax deduction. If she fails, then in one month’s time she will almost certainly lose her home.</p> <p>Gemma gets up to leave. The judge, Lydia and the rent officer wait for the next client.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>This is Part One of a three part series on housing in Coalition Britain, with original illustrations by <a href="http://www.patrickkoduah.com">Patrick Koduah</a>. Tenants</em><span>’&nbsp;</span><em><em>names have been changed. Read Part Two, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/how-to-lose-your-home-simon’s-story">Simon’s story</a>, and Part Three, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/how-to-lose-your-home-why-are-so-many-people-being-evicted-in-coa">Why are so many people being evicted in Coalition Britain?</a></em></em></p><p><em>Patrick Koduah is a London based animator and illustrator whose prizewinning work includes projects exhibited in the Embassy of Japan, commissioned portraiture of Prince Michael of Kent and music video animation for a recent Rolling Stone Magazine Band of the Year.</em></p><p class="paddingtonpresslist"><strong><em>This work takes time. Please donate to OurKingdom </em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here </em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. 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