The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has been held accountable for failing to ensure that tragic deaths in detention centres are properly investigated and has been told that she cannot undermine or interfere with inquiries into said deaths.
On top of this, three of the detention policies put forward by the Home Secretary were found to be in breach of human rights legislation.
The rulings come off the back of the situation with Ahmed Lawal and Oscar Lucky Okwurime, two friends from Nigeria who were in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre together.
On 12 September 2019, Okwurime was found dead in his cell, which an inquest found to have been from unnatural causes. Specifically, he died after neglect following a subarachnoid haemorrhage which ruptured due to hypertension. A previous blood pressure reading had shown hypertension and, because of multiple failures to keep to basic healthcare policies, was not followed up with. These failures resulted in the death of a vulnerable person, amounting to criminal neglect.
The only reason this inquest found the findings it did and proceeded to its conclusion was because Ahmed Lawal was able to testify and give evidence in person at the inquest in November 2020.
The Home Office had tried to deport Lawal five days after the death of his friend, but he took the case to the high court and eventually the judge halted his deportation. His challenge centred around whether the Home Secretary was able to remove a potential witness to a death in custody prior to it being confirmed as to whether or not they will be needed as a witness. He was quite right in this regard, and his evidence was paramount to the eventual ruling.
As a result, the current policy was determined to be ‘legally deficient’ and the judge found that it was unlawful to have an absence of policy around what should happen following the death of someone in a detention facility.
The Home Office has since stated that it will be “refreshing” their current processes to try and ensure that this situation doesn’t happen again.