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Sri Lankan torture victim wins ‘substantial damages’ from the Home Office

A SRI LANKAN refugee from torture was unlawfully detained for nearly a month by the Home Office and so is entitled to “substantial damages,” the High Court ruled today.

The man, identified only as KG, was arrested on January 5 2016, having overstayed his student visa by about two-and-a-half years.

KG, who is now 29, was taken to Campsfield immigration removal centre (IRC) the next day, where he was detained under immigration powers, before being served with removal directions to Sri Lanka the day after.

His deportation was deferred when he claimed asylum in Britain, but he was transferred to Harmondsworth IRC on January 14 2016, where he underwent an examination by a mental health nurse.

In his medical records, however, there is no record of KG being asked whether he was a victim of torture or whether he refused consent to the examination.

KG had an asylum screening interview at Harmondsworth the following day, at which he said he had been tortured by the Sri Lankan authorities in 2010, when he was “arrested by paramilitaries and taken to a camp in Mathagal in Sri Lanka” because his brother was in the Tamil Tigers armed rebel group.

He said he had been beaten “with belts and heated metal rods” and sexually assaulted before “his father got him released on parole and he went to Colombo and escaped to the UK.”

A doctor who examined him at Harmondsworth on February 4 2016 said that KG’s “scars on his right wrist and ankle [are] consistent with his history of torture,” a statement which was supported by a medical report in December of that year.

Four days after his examination, KG was finally told by the Home Office that “a decision has been taken to release you from detention.” He was freed later that day, but his asylum claim “remains outstanding,” the court heard.

His lawyers said there had been a “systemic breach,” and a breach in this specific case, of the Detention Centre Rules 2001 relating to medical examinations taking place within 24 hours of admission and with detainees’ consent.

In his witness statement, KG said he was not offered an interpreter and that, “had I been given the option, I would have opted to have one,” adding that, while he “understood the broad nature of what was being asked at me … I did not understand everything 100 per cent.”

The Home Office claimed that KG was a “poor historian” who had given “inaccurate answers” to questions at both Campsfield and Harmondsworth, which gave the court reason to “doubt the claimant’s objectivity and veracity.”

But Judge Phillip Sycamore found “a complete absence of any evidence [from the Home Office] to contradict the claimant’s account.”

He also found that the “failure to follow the requirements” of the Detention Centre Rules “undermines the process prescribed for the identification and release of the victims of torture.”

The judge ruled that KG had been unlawfully detained from 24 hours after his arrival at Campsfield until the doctor’s report of February 4, and was therefore entitled to compensation as he would have been released earlier if his examinations had been carried out when they should have been.

He ruled, however, that it was “unnecessary to look beyond the actual factual events of this case” as to whether there was “any systemic failure.”

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