Damian Green promises to review the guidance for initial decisions to detain

Damian Green promises to review the guidance for initial decisions to detain

9 November 2011

In response to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Julian Huppert MP, the Immigration Minister, Damian Green, has said that the UKBA intends to review the guidance for making the initial detention decision. 

Mr Huppert tabled two questions on issues of long-term detention of foreign national ex-offenders, as highlighted by the recent report by the Office of the Independent Chief Inspector of UKBA.  The questions asked what steps were being taken by UKBA to reduce long-term detention and to revise the risk assessment of ex-offenders contained in the Enforcement Instructions and Guidance (EIG). EIG is the main document that stipulates how UKBA carries out its enforcement function, including how it makes decisions to detain. 

The section of EIG that deals with the detention decision and review has been severely criticised by a recent High Court ruling in the case of BA.  The court found that, while EIG claims to prescribe individual assessment in each decision to detain, it simultaneously slants the risk assessment to the extent that the detention of more serious offenders becomes effectively automatic.  In the case of BA, UKBA’s interpretation of EIG led a seriously mentally ill person to be detained until his life was in danger. 

Damian Green’s response on 8th November 2011 to Mr Huppert’s question concluded “The UK Border Agency will also review the template and guidance for making the initial detention decision to ensure that all detention decisions are based on a sound consideration of the evidence.”  While it is not clear what this review entails, it might present an opportunity for UKBA to move away from the culture of detention that was criticised by the Independent Chief Inspector’s report. 

The Independent Chief Inspector’s inspection found that of foreign national ex-offenders at the end of their sentences whom UKBA was trying to deport, 97% remained incarcerated either in prisons or Immigration Removal Centres. It also found that “(t)he average length of detention had increased from 143 days in February 2010 to 190 days in January 2011, and 27 per cent of all foreign national prisoners who were detained after their custodial sentence had been detained for longer than 12 months.” (page 3) The inspection report concluded “the sheer weight of cases resulting in detention is of concern and, in our view, there remains a culture that detention is ‘the norm’” (page 22).

According to the latest UKBA statistics, of the total of 2,685 people detained, 407 people (15%) had been detained for over six months at 30 June 2011.  Of these, 217 people had been detained for over a year and 74 had been detained for over 2 years.

The Detention Forum is hosting a Parliamentary meeting on detention on 7th December 2011, with Julian Huppert MP as the Chair.  The Independent Chief Inspector of UKBA and a representative from the Equality and Human Rights Commission will be speaking at the meeting.