Home Office revises definition of torture after Medical Justice highlights problemsMonday, September 23rd, 2019
Medical Justice has agreed to ‘stay’ its case against the Home Office in the High Court of Justice regarding the definition of Torture in the ‘Adults at Risk’ policy.
This is the second successful challenge that Medical Justice has brought against the definition of torture in relation to this policy.
Following the introduction of the Adults at Risk policy we started to see that the new narrower definition of torture was excluding some victims of torture from the protection of the policy – for example, those tortured by traffickers.
As a matter of urgency, we lodged a judicial review against the Home Office. We collected evidence from our casework, and from medical professionals to support our argument. The judicial review contended that the definition of torture was unlawfully restrictive, and had no rational justification concerning the identification of those particularly vulnerable to harm in immigration detention. A year later, in October 2017, the judge ruled in our favour finding the definition of torture used at that time was unlawful.
The updated definition was still unsatisfactory as it still served to exclude some victims of torture at increased risk of harm in detention from protection, it still laid the evidential burden on detainees and increased the threshold for release from detention. Following the introduction of the new definition of torture we continued to see cases where torture survivors had been detained counter to the stated intention of the policy, including detainees who were deemed to have been victims of torture under the old definition but were re-evaluated under the new policy and found no longer to qualify under the new definition.
Again we lodged another Judicial Review on the grounds that the new torture definition was contrary to the purpose of the policy, and there had been no fair and lawful consultation.
Medical Justice was granted permission to file a judicial review on all grounds. Rather than go back to the courts, the Home Office made concessions and a consent order was agreed with Medical Justice. This included policy changes such as an amendment to the Adults at Risk Caseworker Guidance; a review of and consultation on the Detention Centre Rules when the new Detention Centre Rules are laid before Parliament; and finally that an equality impact assessment is carried out as soon as reasonably practicable.
“We see this as a significant win for the protection of already vulnerable people in detention. By making these concessions, the Home Office is admitting that more needs to be done to protect survivors of torture – we just have to wait and see how significant those deeds will be.”
– Emma Ginn, Director