Helping detainees in need of medical assistance

Medical Justice challenges the detention of victims of torture in the High Court

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Read about Medical Justice’s challenge to the detention of victims of torture in the High Court

Medical Justice are bringing a case in the High Court, challenging the Home Office’s new ‘Adults at Risk’ detention policy, which fundamentally weakens protections for vulnerable victims of torture. The policy relies on mechanisms that have been demonstrated by the Shaw review to be ineffective, it limits the definition of torture to acts carried out by state actors and requires victims of torture to present evidence that they are being harmed by detention in addition to proving a history of torture. The UNCAT definition of torture is very technical and is likely to be applied by caseworkers and doctors in such a manner as to exclude cases of non state torture, Further details of our concerns regarding the ‘Adults at Risk’ policy can be found here. We also raised concerns about the new detention policy together with other NGOs – see a letter in the Guardian here.


The High Court granted Medical Justice permission to bring a Judicial Review of the policy on the 15 November. We are represented by Bhatt Murphy solicitors, Shu Shin Luh and Stephanie Harrison.  


On the 21st of November Mr Justice Ouseley granted permission to apply for judicial review for nine claims whose focus is to challenge the adoption of the restrictive definition of torture in article 1 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (UNCAT) in the Home Office’s detention policies from 12 September 2016.  The court has directed a full judicial review hearing (4 day time estimate) in March 2017.  The Court also granted an application made by Duncan Lewis Solicitors for interim relief in the form of replacing the UNCAT definition of torture with the broader definition in the pre-12 September 2016 policies, on a date to be decided.


Medical Justice welcome the decision to suspend the narrower definition of torture and to revert to the previous, wider definition. It will mean that more vulnerable torture survivors will be protected from being detained and being harmed by detention. We hope the Home Office will now reconsider their position, reverse the changes to the policy on detaining torture survivors and institute a process that works effectively to identify and protect vulnerable people. 


A briefing note can be downloaded here, see the Guardian’s coverage here.