Medical examination failures led to torture victim’s unlawful detention by Home Secretary

Friday 13 July 2018

KG was represented by Anthony Vaughan and Miranda Butler instructed by Ahmed Aydeed of Duncan Lewis.

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The High Court ruled this morning that a torture victim is entitled to compensation after staff at two different detention centres failed to provide him with the required medical examinations which would have led to his release from detention. Following the instruction of solicitors, the claimant, known as KG, was seen by a detention centre doctor who noted scars on his body which he explained had been caused by torture in Sri Lanka. The Home Secretary later accepted that KG should be released in the light of the concerns expressed by the doctor that he may be a victim of torture.

However, the Court ruled that, under the Home Secretary’s own Detention Centre Rules 2001 (rule 34), KG had been entitled to a physical and mental examination by a doctor within 24 hours of admission to each of the two detention centres: Campsfield and then Harmondsworth. The Home Secretary had claimed that nursing staff would have asked the claimant whether he required an appointment with a doctor (as required by a health screening questionnaire that was in use at the time), but KG had not asked for one.

However, the Court ruled that the onus was firmly on the Home Secretary to provide a medical examination to “every” detainee within 24 hours, absent a refusal of consent:

“20.  …There is no indication that [KG] refused consent to see a general practitioner for a Rule 34 examination (see Rule 34 (ii)). Rule 34 (i) requires every detained person to be given a physical and mental examination within 24 hours of admission. That it is to say that it must be arranged for every detainee and is only not to go ahead if the detained person does not consent to the examination…”

The Judge accepted KG’s evidence that he had not refused consent to, or been offered, a medical examination at either detention centre.

As a result of the Home Secretary’s failure to provide the required medical examinations to KG, the Judge found that KG had been unlawfully detained from 24 hours after his admission to Campsfield IRC until 4 days before his release (which was the time it had taken the Home Secretary to decide to release KG in the light of the doctor’s rule 35 report), and was entitled to compensatory damages in respect of a month unlawfully in detention.

A full copy of the judgment is available here.

Anthony Vaughan and Miranda Butler are members of the Garden Court Chambers Civil Liberties and Human Rights and Immigration Teams.

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