Nearly all Home Office misconduct inquiries relate to immigration

In 626 internal investigations in three years, 210 allegations were substantiated

Home Office immigration enforcement vans

Almost all of the investigations into alleged serious misconduct by Home Office staff relate to immigration matters, the Guardian has learned.

Although the department also has responsibility for policing and counter-terrorism, 96% of its internal investigations focus on immigration matters. Scores of these investigations have substantiated allegations against staff made internally or by the public.

The Home Office’s professional standards unit (PSU) investigates only the most serious misconduct allegations against teams or individuals within the department, or contractors such as those working in detention centres. A general complaints procedure deals with more minor matters that are not investigated by the PSU.

Areas of investigation by the PSU include allegations of crimes such as assault, sexual assault, racism, theft, fraud, harassment or “any behaviour likely to bring the Home Office into disrepute”.

The Guardian obtained a freedom of information response which revealed that in the past three years there have been 626 PSU investigations, with 210 allegations substantiated. Of the areas of the Home Office’s work investigated, 96.4% of the allegations related to borders, immigration and citizenship, with only a handful relating to other important areas such as policing and counter-terrorism.

The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said the disclosures showed the Home Office’s immigration and nationality department was “not fit for purpose” and called for an immediate review.

The PSU has the power to request witness statements, CCTV footage, notebook entries, texts and voicemails on Home Office-issued mobile phones. Matters investigated may be referred to the police or other agencies where appropriate.

Home Office guidance states that the issues considered by the PSU have “potential for serious reputational damage to the Home Office as well as potential legal action taken against us. An assessment of each case will be conducted by the PSU to assess for the potential risk and if there is a risk of adverse publicity.”

In an answer to a parliamentary question last year, the then immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, revealed there had been 25 allegations of sexual assault made by detainees against staff in immigration removal centres between 2014-15 and 2017-18. She said in her response: “Any allegations of serious misconduct made by a detainee against staff in an IRC are also referred to the Home Office PSU for investigation.”

The Guardian requested information about recommended actions against individual members of Home Office staff contained in PSU investigation reports, but was rejected on the basis that each report would have to be examined individually and this would take more work than allowed under freedom of information request time limits.

However, the Home Office guidance states that the PSU’s Lessons Learned team tracks progress made on implementing recommendations in PSU reports and that there are quarterly Lessons Learned reports produced internally.

Home Office ‘doomed to repeat the mistakes of Windrush’
Abbott said: “These figures show just how entrenched ‘hostile environment’ practices are in the Tory Home Office. The Windrush scandal has taught them nothing as they continue to rack up internal investigations with no real consequence and no substantial change. This culture is destroying lives and families every day and cannot be allowed to continue. The immigration and nationality department of the Home Office is clearly not fit for purpose, and the government must call an immediate review into its continued failings.”

Toufique Hossain, a director of public law at Duncan Lewis, which has obtained disclosure of some of these internal PSU reports as part of legal challenges against the Home Office in immigration matters, said: “Grave concerns are raised as to Home Office failings on a daily basis. A government body essentially investigating itself, put simply, will never hold itself accountable.

“The burden is very much placed on the individual under the Home Office’s control, more often than not with the assistance of publicly funded lawyers and NGOs, to ensure that the Home Office is held to account. Only through these mechanisms can vulnerable individuals access courts in order to vindicate their rights.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We expect the highest levels of integrity and professional conduct of both staff and contractors. The number of complaints investigated by the professional standards unit has fallen by more than 25% since 2016-17.

“Borders, immigration and citizenship system teams have the greatest interaction with members of the public so it is to be expected that there are higher numbers of complaints than for other non-public facing Home Office teams.”

With many thanks to: The Guardian and Diane Taylor for the original story 


‘It is a matter that the NI executive needs to address in terms of accountability – Kieran Bannon.


THREE hundred so-called gagging orders have been used to silence public-sector workers – the majority former police officers – since 2009. The orders can be used to prevent staff speaking publicly to the press about their former employer.

Also known as confidentiality clauses, they are usally agreed when an employee is made redundent or leaves an employer following a workplace issue or disagreement. More than 230 police officers and 50 staff members at the Stormont executive agreed to confidentiality clauses. The clauses can be used in settlement agreements to stop industrial tribunal cases being heard and can cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds. In March the British government banned gagging orders for NHS employees after it emerged that more than £18 million had been spent on silencing 600 staff. The issue has caused uproar at Westminster, with communities secretary Eric Pickles warning against using “under-the-counter pay-offs to silence departing staff”.

Civil service union Nipsa expressed concerns over public funds being used “simply to silence individuals”. Kieran Bannon, assistant general secretary of Nipsa, said that confidentiality clauses can “undermine the principles of accountability and propriety”. “It is a matter that the NI executive needs to address in terms of accountability, firstly in relation to the use of public funds but equally the accountability of public-sector employers for their actions,” he said. A total of 236 PSNI officers agreed to confidentiality clauses as part of employment tribunal settlements. Almost 200 of these were part of a class action settled earlier this year, according to a freedom of information request submitted by  The Irish NewsThe Department for Social Development (DSD) accounted for the vast majority of the confidentiality clauses used in the executive, with 39 imposed since 2009.

Five staff members in the Department of Agriclture and Rural Development agreed to confidentiality clauses as part of compromise agreements. The Department of Health also used confidentiality clauses in two out-of-court settlements relating to industrial tribunal cases. Other public bodies also revealed some employees agreed to gagging orders over the past four years. Eight assembly staff members agreed to confidentiality clauses. None of the cases prevented employees from whistleblowing. A total of 16 Western Health and Social Care Trust employees and one ambulance service staff member agreed to confidentiality clauses since 2009. One Belfast trust employee agreed to a confidentiality clause as part of the termination arrangement. The trust said the clause was mutually agreed and phrased to “protect both the employer and employee”, with no specific clauses in relation to the press. According to employment lewyers, most compromise agreements include confidentiality clauses. They can be used to bar employees from talking publicly or to the press about their former employer of the circumstances under which they left. Mr Bannon said confidentiality clauses usually form part of compromise agreements and are used in tribunal settlements to stop cases being heard. “Nipsa would have concern if public funds were used simply to silence individuals,” he said. “The use of confidentiality clauses means the general workforce and the public are not aware of the actions of the employer and in a case involving public-sector staff it is even more important that the employer is held to account for its actions given the potential impact on public funds.” No figures were available to determine how much was spent in the north’s staff settlements that used confidentiality clauses. A DSD spokesman said : “We are not in a position to make an informed comment how this department’s figures compare to others. DSD is, however, the largest of the Northern Ireland Civil Service departments.”

With many thanks to : Brendan HughesIrish News.


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Investigations & Analysis – Northern Ireland

Loughinisland: the Ombudsman’s report – but key issues remain unaddressed

The aftermath of the Loughinisland massacre in 1994


THE Detail can today reveal the conclusions of the Police Ombudsman on the Loughinisland massacre: that the failure by police to secure convictions afterwards was down to incompetence and a lack of commitment – but not collusion.

The final report also leaves unanswered a key question of the families of the six men killed at The Heights bar 17 years ago: what the role of Special Branch was either before or after the attack.

More >

The six men killed in the Loughinisland massacre

Where was Special Branch in Loughinisland massacre?


IF the Police Ombudsman’s report into the McGurk’s Bar atrocity highlighted his reluctance to grapple with collusion, his report into Loughinisland is startling by its absence of another crucial piece of the picture: the role of Special Branch both before and after the massacre.

Mr Hutchinson states that he studied all “available intelligence” connected to the killings but important intelligence-related aspects of the case are not even mentioned in the report, raising questions over just how deep his investigation went in this case and, again, drawing attention to a “civil war” within his own office.

More >

THE Attorney General John Larkin has confirmed that the inquest system here shall have a role “front and centre” in how Northern Ireland deals with the past.

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