Home Office hit with high court claim over refusal to treat HIV patient in detention centre

Exclusive: Following the man’s release from immigration detention and medical tests, a specialist nurse confirmed that the virus has replicated due to the lack of treatment therein.

Nadine White
Friday 31 December 2021 16:37
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<p>Colnbrook IRC </p>

Colnbrook IRC

The Home Office will undergo a high court battle over a HIV patient who was denied life-saving treatment while being held in an immigration detention centre for over two weeks, The Independent can reveal.

The 42-year-old man, who was awaiting deportation to Jamaica, is reliant upon daily medication to manage his condition, while the dosages for his other ailments, including schizophrenia and depression, were also reduced by staff at Colnbrook Immigration Centre.

Duncan Lewis has brought the claim against the government, arguing that their client was subjected to false imprisonment by the Home Office for 17 days which sought to do so without establishing a lawful policy relating to the detention of individuals with HIV.

Following his release and medical tests, a specialist nurse confirmed that the virus has replicated due to the lack of treatment.

Solicitor Jamie Bell told The Independent: “It is deeply disappointing that the home office detention policies continue to seriously fail those with HIV and individuals are still detained without a lawful policy in place.

“Having been found to have acted unlawfully previously, it is surprising that the Home Office have not produced an updated policy and continue to act in the same way that was found to be unlawful this year.”

Moreover, the Home Office failed to assess the risks posed to their client of Covid-19 in detention which were increased as a result of being immunocompromised and failed to comply with safeguarding policies which include measures such as isolating those most at risk of contracting the virus.

Colnbrook recently struggled to contain an outbreak of the virus.

In fact, beyond an initial screening acknowledging that the man’s HIV status may present a moderate risk, there was no engagement with this diagnosis, or consideration of the risk of serious illness or the need for a personal care plan, his solicitors have said.

Speaking to The Independent while he was detained, the patient said: “You can’t let someone suffer the way they’re making me suffer. What else do I need to do to show them that how they’re treating me is wrong?”

“It is deeply disappointing that the home office detention policies continue to seriously fail those with HIV and individuals are still detained without a lawful policy in place.”

In a 600-page judicial review claim form, seen by The Independent, legal representatives are seeking damages and legal costs from the Home Office, as well as declarations that it unlawfully detained their claimant in the context of human rights legislation.

The man was detained on 1 November for the purpose of removal on a charter flight to Jamaica scheduled for 10 November 2021.

When immigration officers attended his address, allegedly kicking down his door, he informed them that he needed his HIV medication; in response, officers took medication marked in the name of a third party.

Despite his deportation order being cancelled on 3 November for “medical reasons”, the Home Office continued to detain him for another two weeks until 17 November.

This comes after a high court judge ruled in July that the Home Office had failed to put in place systems to protect detainees with HIV, after a man was denied life-saving medication for four days.

According to the British HIV Association, any interruption of HIV treatment can lead to a rapid decline in health, and a real risk of life-threatening infections. Moreover, the virus may develop resistance to medication making it difficult to find an effective treatment.

The Birmingham-resident has lived in the UK since he was 11 years old and is still facing deportation to Jamaica.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “All Immigration Removal Centres have dedicated, 24-hr on site medical facilities including access to independent doctors and nurses, who take decisions relating to an individual’s medical needs, including the prescribing of medication and dosage.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further whilst there is ongoing litigation.”

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