Priti Patel has been creating prejudiced policies to frustrate or undermine inquiries into the deaths of people held at her immigration detention centres.
That is the ruling of two judges in the immigration court (and be honest, did you even know we had one?) on Wednesday.
It relates to two friends, Ahmed Lawal and Oscar Lucky Okwurime, both from Nigeria, who were in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre when Okwurime was found dead in his cell there on 12 September 2019.
Lawal was a key witness – but the Home Office, run by Priti Patel, tried to have him deported back to Nigeria five days after the death was discovered – before he could provide any evidence.
He took the case to the High Court where a judge halted his removal.
After he gave evidence in person at an inquest in November 2020, a jury found that Okwurime had died unnaturally, as a result of neglect following a subarachnoid haemorrhage, which can rupture due to hypertension. His blood pressure reading on August 22, 2019 showed hypertension.
The jury found that this reading was not taken again due to multiple failures to adhere to healthcare policy.
Given these opportunities to repeat this basic medical test on a vulnerable person, neglect contributed to the death.
So the Home Office was responsible for the death through neglect of a person in its custody – and had tried to deport the vital witness before he was able to give evidence.
Lawal then challenged the Home Office in the immigration court, focusing on whether the home secretary can remove a potential witness to a death in custody before it is clear whether they will be needed as a witness.
The judges found fault, not only with Home Office policy at the time but with two replacement policies:
The judges found that the home secretary’s decision to remove Lawal to Nigeria was unlawful as she had failed to take reasonable steps to secure his evidence relating to Okwurime’s death before starting removal proceedings.
A replacement policy in August 2020 was also found to be unlawful as it failed to identify and take steps to secure the evidence of those who may have relevant information about a death in detention.
The home secretary’s current policy was found to be “legally deficient”. The judges found that the absence of a policy to direct what should happen following a death in immigration detention was unlawful and concluded that there needed to be such a policy.
A spokesperson for the Home Office is reported as saying that it will be “refreshing” its current processes – not changing them, notice.
I suppose we should be grateful that they didn’t say “lessons have been learned”.
I expect we shall soon find that the only lessons learned from this case are how to cover up any further deaths so we don’t find out about them.
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