Home Office forced to pay out £9.3m in compensation for over 300 cases of unlawful detention last year

Department spent £25,500 a day on people wrongly detained

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Friday 09 July 2021 21:16 BST
<p>Soaring figures demonstrate Home Office ‘failing to learn from mistakes’</p>

Soaring figures demonstrate Home Office ‘failing to learn from mistakes’

The Home Office was forced to pay out a record in compensation for wrongful detention under immigration powers last year.

Payouts amounting to £9.3m were made to 330 people – roughly £25,500 a day in the 12 months to April 5.

This marked a 35 per cent rise on the previous 12 months, when ministers paid out £6.9m to 272 individuals.

Home Office annual accounts show it has paid out £24.4m to 914 people wrongly detained in the past three years, compared with £8.5m to 289 people between 2015 and 2018. It amounts to a 216 per cent increase in the number of people compensated for wrongful detention and a 187 per cent rise in the total payout.

Bambos Charalambous, the shadow immigration minister, said the figures were “absolutely appalling”, adding: “Once again we have an example of the incompetence of the Home Office where they are wasting public money by breaking the law.”

Charities and lawyers said the figures show the Home Office is failing to learn from its mistakes.

They said it was all the more concerning given that under home secretary Priti Patel’s new plan for immigration, the Home Office proposes to start processing asylum seekers in off-shore centres, which charities say would “pave the way for a mass expansion of detention”.

Charity Detention Action’s director Bella Sankey described the figures as “grotesque”. She said: “This money has sponsored extreme human misery, self-harm, suicide attempts and an institutional mental health crises.

“But it is a fraction of the human and financial waste that will result if Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill passes, paving the way for a mass expansion of detention, including in off-shore centres.”

Toufique Hossain, director of public law at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, which has represented a number of clients with successful compensation claims for unlawful detention, said the statistics showed the “scale and impunity” with which the government, “routinely unlawfully deprives often highly vulnerable people of their liberty”.

“False imprisonment is arguably the most serious abuse of state power meted out to the individual. The damages paid out can never adequately compensate for the misery and suffering that has been inflicted,” he said.

Rudy Schulkind, research and policy coordinator at Bail for Immigration Detainees, said the “alarming” rate at which wrongful detention cases were rising demonstrates a, “failure of the Home Office to learn any of the lessons from its past mistakes”.

He added: “In recent months, we have witnessed a lot of finger-pointing from the home secretary about abuse of the system. These figures suggest she should instead turn her attention to the reckless actions of her own department.

“It is high time that this cruel and inhumane system was brought to an end.”

A Home Office spokesperson said the department was, “committed to learning lessons from any case where we concede or the courts deem unlawful”.

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