Death in immigration detention: CPS reverses decision to prosecute

By agency reporter
October 31, 2018

On the sixth anniversary of the death of Prince Kwabena Fosu in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced they will be reversing a decision to bring criminal charges against the private companies responsible for his care.

Prince Kwabena Fosu, a 31 year old Ghanaian national, died in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre on the morning of 30 October 2012. An inquest into the circumstances of Prince’s death was postponed until after the conclusion of any criminal investigation or prosecution.

On 14 April 2017 the CPS authorised criminal charges against GEO Group UK Ltd, which then ran Harmondsworth, and Nestor Primecare Services Ltd, which provided healthcare services at the IRC. The charges were for a breach to section three of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The CPS declined to bring corporate manslaughter charges.

Evidence suggests that Prince was extremely distressed and suffering from mental ill health. He was held in cellular confinement for six days in unsanitary conditions, without any clothing or bedding or a mattress. It is thought that Prince went into sickle cell crisis and died on the floor of his cell.

It initially took the CPS almost three years from receiving the police file to confirm that criminal charges would be brought, and the reversal of that decision 18 months later is unfathomable to the family, who still do not know the full truth about what happened to Prince.

Last year saw the highest ever number of deaths of immigration detainees in IRCs, prison, and shortly after release, with a total of eleven deaths in 2017. This year there have been at least two further deaths of detainees. 

Prince’s father said: “For a bereaved family, it is difficult to understand why there is such delay in the criminal decision making process, we are just told that it is normal. How can I now explain to the wider family on the anniversary of Prince’s death, that we have got nowhere in six years? How can I explain why the prosecution decision has been reversed? How can it be acceptable to treat a bereaved family this way? This is not justice.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: “We had hoped this trial would shine a spotlight on the inhumane treatment of Prince, who died naked on the concrete floor of his cell. On the sixth anniversary of Prince’s death, this is a reprehensible step backwards by the CPS. Recent months have seen the highest number of deaths of immigration detainees on record. The culture of impunity for private companies and the Home Office, in the face of well documented ill treatment of detainees, is shameful.”

Kate Maynard, solicitor for the family said: “The CPS is clearly a failing and arrogant institution if they think that the management of this case has been acceptable. This case illustrates the systemic delay for decision making in death in custody cases. To take four years to review a case, announcing that there will be a prosecution and then reversing that decision 18 months later, is dysfunctional. A culture change is required within the CPS to fix the way it operates so that bereaved families receive a decent, efficient and humane service.”

Timeline:

  • On 30 October 2012 Prince Fosu died in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre.
  • On 15 May 2014 the police provide the CPS with a case file, for consideration of criminal charges.
  • On 3 April 2017 the CPS announce their decision that criminal charges will be brought against GEO and Primecare under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
  • On 30 October 2018 the CPS reversed that decision.
  • An inquest is yet to be scheduled.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights are currently conducting an inquiry on Immigration Detention. INQUEST has submitted evidence raising which will be published shortly. 

There have been several cases in recent years that have raised concerns over the quality of care offered to immigration detainees. The Medical Justice report on Death in Immigration Detention: 2000-2015, found that the vast majority of those who died in the period of the report could have had their claims processed in the community.

Many deaths show failures of safeguarding practices in preventing the unnecessary detention of those suffering from mental or physical ill health. They also showed that the practice of indefinite detention, as well as the poor conditions and treatment, itself creates vulnerability. And when detainees did become ill, either through physical or mental illness, there was frequently inadequate healthcare, and an inadequate emergency response.

* Read Death in Immigration Detention: 2000-2015  here

* INQUEST https://www.inquest.org.uk/

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