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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 2 November 2010
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr Aidan Burley
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Mr David Banks, Group Managing Director, G4S Care & Justice Services and Mr Stephen Small, Managing Director of Detention and Escorting, G4S Care & Justice Services, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Mr Banks and Mr Small, thank you very much for coming to the Committee this afternoon. The Committee is looking at the issue concerning the rules governing enforced removal s from the United Kingdom . What prompted the interest of the Committee is of course the death 20 days ago of Jimmy Mubenga , who died while being escorted by two of your escorts. We are not going to talk about the circumstances of that case, because that is the subject of a criminal investigation. What we would like to extrapolate, if we may, are the protocols that you use in respect of removals. And you can take it as read that the Committee does understand the need to remove people who have failed to satisfy the authorities they have a right to stay here. I think that is accepted on all sides of the Committee, so we are just looking at the method of removal.
Can I start by just asking you to clarify , is it correct that G4S has now lost the contract for the provision of these services on behalf of the Government- the removal of individuals?
Mr Banks: Yes, that’s correct. There’s been a procurement process under way throughout this year. The contract comes to an end at the end of April 2011, and we were notified on Friday that we had not been selected to manage the new contract.
Q2 Chair: Because the Minister told us in the House that this decision was taken in August of this year. When do you understand the decision was taken?
Mr Banks: We believe it was taken in August and that the delay in terms of communicating the decision was to allow for the results of the comprehensive spending review, and obviously that delayed it until last week.
Q3 Chair: Did it come as a surprise to you? Because you have been doing this for a number of years. Is that right?
Mr Banks: It came as a great shock, I have to say. We received some initial feedback. It is very clear from that feedback that the winning bid was judged to be considerably cheaper than our own. We are awaiting more detailed feedback, when we will hopefully understand the decision in greater depth.
Q4 Chair: Dame Nuala O’Loan produced a report which highlighted a number of concerns about the issue of removal of individuals in the United Kingdom, and you have the contract until next year. Are you satisfied that your company has addressed those concerns?
Mr Banks: Yes, indeed. Her report obviously deals with the period from 2002 to 2008 and, I think, considered 45 cases that were raised in another document. Those cases were looked at in some detail and a series of recommendations were made. We obviously took account of those recommendations and, so far as they affect the delivery of the service, the report covered not only the transportation and escorting of detainees but it also covered the operation of immigration removal centres. So we’ve identified the recommendations that certainly we could implement and we’ve changed our procedures to the extent appropriate to take account of those.
Q5 Chair: And you’ve had no complaints from any of your employees about any of the practices that are being used? For the time that you’ve had this contract none of the G4S employees have contacted you and said, "We’re really concerned" about any aspects of the removal process?
Mr Banks: I’m certainly not aware of any, no.
Q6 Dr Huppert: Thank you very much for coming in. I realise it is a difficult time for you, both with the death and with the loss of the contract.
Can I first just ask how you understand the definition of "legal , necessary and proportionate force" that can be used during removals?
Mr Banks: In terms of legal, obviously our officers are empowered under legislation to use control and restraint techniques when appropriate. That’s under the various Acts, which is the legal bit. In terms of necessary and proportionate, our whole method of operation is to avoid using restraint. Understandably, the people that we are deporting would prefer to remain in the UK and would prefer not to actually be deported or removed to their country of origin. But our whole basis and ethos as an operation is to achieve that in as calm a way as possible. Our staff are selected for their interpersonal skills. Use of de-escalation techniques is a huge part of our training, and the use of force, the use of control and restraint techniques-which can mean anything from the application of handcuffs to the use of approved holds under the control and restraint Prison Service approved methods-that’s only as a last resort. In fact, last year I think control and restraint was used in about 8% of removals.
Q7 Dr Huppert: I’m glad to hear some of those comments. I’m trying to understand how that fits with the Medical Justice report, Outsourcing Abuse and the comments there and the records that they have there; with the report that Dame Nuala O’Loan did based on that, which highlights a whole series of things; and with information that the Committee has received from inquests, for example, saying that the Home Office apparently warned you in 2006, "The restraint techniques used by its guards potentially impeded breathing and could result in a fatality" and that there were some issues about positional asphyxia. How do you fit what you have just said, which is I think what ought to be going on, with all of these reports suggesting that is in fact not what is going on?
Mr Banks: The control and restraint techniques that were used are those that are developed by the Prison Service and approved by UKBA. The risks associated with, for example, positional asphyxia are a major part of our training. Included in our training programme is a whole week on control and restraint, and then there is refresher training every year.
Chair: We will come on to the training a little later.
Mr Banks: Okay, yes. Thank you.
Q8 Dr Huppert : Most of these have a whole series of incidences which don’t fit with what you are saying. But can I also ask, in the interests of time, what happens when there are problems? I am aware of a case that was brought to my attention by a constituent, of very severe brutality, alleged at least, against a deportee, and I have detailed text here in a medical legal assessment of them. The brutality led to them being admitted to hospital, so I think we can accept that there was something there. Rather than talking about the details of this case, what interested me, and what interested my constituent, was that when she and the individual concerned tried to report this to the police as an assault, they were informed that it was not possible for the police to accept this. They would not accept criminal allegations against Group 4 members, and that UKBA would investigate. It would not allow the police to get involved-treat it as criminal assault. Is that accurate or were UKBA and the Home Office getting this wrong?
Mr Banks: I’m quite shocked by that, to be honest. The police have powers obviously to investigate all allegations and, indeed, any incidents we report to UKBA and where it’s appropriate for the police to get involved then they’re actually invited in. So I’m really quite surprised by that account.
Q9 Nicola Blackwood: Where injuries do occur-there appears to be some evidence that they do, and if you have somebody particularly reluctant to be deported, it is possible that that might happen-what is the structure that you have in place on reporting that? What is incumbent upon your staff to make sure that that is properly reported and recorded so that it is available for people to make an assessment of whether the restraint was legal and proportionate and necessary?
Mr Banks: Yes, every use of control and restraint techniques, or indeed physical control in care techniques, which are used as well, every use of that has to be reported. And so we have a reporting form, be that the simple application of handcuffs or more detailed. So every incident is reported and that is reported to us. We review those reports to actually make a judgement and come to a view as to whether our officers made the correct judgement. Those are also shared with UKBA.
Q10 Nicola Blackwood: And if there’s an injury, is there a medical assessment automatically?
Mr Small: No. If there’s an injury they could be seen by a medic, if a medic is available, and a medical report will be produced on that.
I just want to clarify on the reporting process we are obliged to send those reports, every time control and restraint is used, to UKBA and their contract monitor must investigate that. We review at three levels. If the contract monitor believes the control restraint is in question that would be passed to UKBA’s Professional Standards Unit for further investigation.
Q11 Mark Reckless: I have a G4S facility in my constituency, the Medway Secure Training Centre.
Mr Banks: Indeed.
Mark Reckless: I’d just like to try and understand a bit more about whether the restraint method used in this recent case, and a tragic deportation, whether that is the same as the restraint methods that are used within the Medway Secure Training Centre and- specifically for the Committee-whether particular issues and difficulties apply because you’re removing someone from the country.
Mr Banks: If I can just explain the two methods of control and restraint. There’s control and restraint-and both are accredited by the Prison Service. Control and restraint is primarily directed for use on adults and essentially it is designed to restrain, while minimising. And there are risks in use of control and restraint, of course, of injury, but the process is designed to minimise that. The form of restraint that’s actually used with juveniles, such as at Medway Secure Training Centre, is physical control in care. And the key difference there is that pain compliance is not a part of physical control in care, where it is a part of the process in control and restraint. So it is a different mechanism because control and restraint is for adults and physical control in care is for juveniles.
Q12 Mr Burley: This whole job of carrying out forced deportations was contracted out, I understand, in 1993 by the Metropolitan Police to private firms such as yourself. Why do you think they have contracted this out to the private sector? What can you do that the police felt they couldn’t do?
Mr Banks: We do a number of functions that were previously undertaken by the police and the Prison Service. What usually is the case is that because we are-
Chair: I think what Mr Burley wants to know is, we know about your functions, what are you doing that’s better than them, that they couldn’t do?
Q13 Mr Burley: Yes, why do you think they felt the need to subcontract it out to someone else?
Mr Banks: Yes, it’s usually two reasons. One is in terms of focus on the activity. Our detention custody officers are trained specifically in the skills of managing detainees. Obviously that is a fraction of a police officer’s training. So we’re able to focus more specifically on the task in terms of the service we provide. There is usually a cost element as well: detention and custody officers would typically be paid less than a fully warranted police officer.
Q14 Mr Burley: Usually the Specialist Deportation Squad, as it was, had some kind of specialist training comparable to what your officers have. So it seems to me that mostly this is a cost-based decision.
Mr Banks: I’m not sure it is, because it usually has the two elements. I’m afraid you’re taking me back to a period that I find difficult to recollect.
Chair: We won’t take you that far back. We will go instead to Mr Steve McCabe.
Q15 Steve McCabe: Mr Banks, if I heard you correctly you have just said there that your operatives are trained specifically in managing deportees. Can I just ask, how does their training differ from the training that G4S employees moving prisoners receive? What’s the specific nature of this training they have?
Mr Banks: There are some core, if you like, philosophical elements in terms of care, humanity, decency, but the task is quite different in terms of its implementation. With regard to prisoners, for example, prisoners are escorted in cellular vehicles. So each prisoner is in a cell; each offender is in a cell. Use of handcuffs for when the offenders are not on the vehicle is fairly routine. So there are some differences, because use of handcuffs for example in escorting detainees is not a matter of routine and the vehicles we use are not cellular vehicles, they are less secure vehicles. So there are some quite distinct differences in terms of what the staff have to do.
Q16 Steve McCabe: Does the training vary in length? If I was observing people who had been trained to help you move prisoners, and someone who was engaged in this other task, what would I see? I accept the points you have made earlier about philosophical differences and different vehicles, but is there any difference in the length of training? Is there any practical difference in the training they receive?
Chair: In particular if you could answer this: presumably there is training in how to restrain people on aircrafts? Putting their head between their legs; that kind of restraint? This is something that you train people to do?
Mr Banks: There is no training and there is no approved technique that actually involves putting the subject’s head between their legs.
Q17 Chair: So how do you restrain them when they are on an aircraft, which you must have had to do in various other cases?
Mr Banks: Sometimes handcuffs are used on aircraft.
Q18 Chair: Just the handcuffs, no restraining of heads? Because we have seen photographs and drawings in newspapers about the restraint of individuals: one officer standing-for example, if Mr Winnick was going to be restrained, Mr McCabe and I would try and restrain him from jumping up in an aircraft before it took off. There is no training in that?
Mr Small: There is no training in pushing the head downwards. There is training in trying to keep the deportee upwards. There’s no neck holds or head holds used.
Q19 Chair: So you don’t touch them when they get on?
Mr Small: We do. We use holds and arm locks to keep them down in their seat, but it doesn’t involve pushing their head down.
Q20 Chair: So just arm locks keeping them in their seat?
Mr Small: Arm locks or shoulders.
Q21 Chair: You don’t touch their head and you don’t move them at all?
Mr Small: No. Well, we may hold their head up when they’re trying to put their head down, but we do not use any holds that involve pushing the head down towards their body.
Q22 Chair: So the newspaper reports about this happening are wrong? This was never used in any case where G4S was removing someone on an aircraft?
Mr Banks: Not that we’re aware.
Q23 Chair: Not that you are aware?
Mr Banks: Yes.
Q24 Chair: Have you not looked at this matter, following the recent events?
Mr Banks: Not that we’re aware from the detailed reports we get from the use of control and restraint on every occasion.
Q25 Chair: But is it correct that the Home Office suspended certain aspects of restraint following the death of Mr Mubenga?
Mr Banks: Understandably the UKBA wanted to review the use of control and restraint, and immediately following the death of Mr Mubenga they did lift the ability of our staff to use control and restraint. After a short period of consideration, those powers were actually reinstated in full.
Q26 Chair: But you are telling this Committee, you are absolutely clear-on no removal of a person from the United Kingdom on an aircraft-the only way you restrain them is by lifting their head up, not pushing their head down?
Mr Banks: That is our procedures, yes.
Mr Small: The head support is given from behind to bring the head up. All head supports are per the prison training manual procedures.
Q27 Mr Winnick: Over a period of time there have been allegations of behaviour, which has been considered inappropriate, and we have a note here that a detainee’s arm was held too tightly; a detainee was restrained by using an inappropriate neck hold; a detainee was left too long in handcuffs; a detainee was controlled inappropriately by pulling handcuffs and so forth. When these complaints were received, what was the reaction of the company, Mr Banks?
Mr Banks: These arise from complaints and during the five and a half years of the current contracts, complaints alleging assaults specifically relating to control and restraint total 186. So these are the six specific instances throughout that period of time. The company-when we receive complaints they are investigated and investigated by the UKBA Professional Standards Unit.
Q28 Mr Winnick: What has been the outcome of the investigations into these complaints?
Mr Banks: I can come back to you on the specific outcomes for the six.
Q29 Mr Winnick: Yes, I mean what disciplinary action? I am speaking in general terms.
Mr Banks: Yes.
Mr Winnick: Obviously there is a sub judice case, but what disciplinary action has been taken over a period of time against those who have been found guilty of such abuses?
Mr Banks: The reaction and activity following that can range from anything from retraining through to disciplinary issues, if appropriate; and indeed, if appropriate, involvement by the police.
Q30 Mr Winnick: Do you have any figures to say how many have been disciplined?
Mr Banks: We-
Q31 Chair: Mr Small, would you write to the Committee with that information?
Mr Small: Yes.
Q32 Mr Winnick: Just one more question. Has anyone been dismissed as a result of inappropriate behaviour?
Mr Small: Yes, there has been, Mr Winnick. There has been-
Mr Winnick: One, two, three?
Mr Small: No, we’ve had two people dismissed; a third one left before the investigation could be completed, and resigned, so three in total.
Q33 Lorraine Fullbrook: Thanks you, Chairman. Gentlemen, I would just like to touch a bit more on the physical control in care, following the Ministry of Justice in July publishing a training manual. The Ministry of Justice identified a number of risk factors associated with the control and restraint procedures. Can you specifically tell the Committee how your guidance to your employees has changed since the publication of this report?
Mr Banks: Yes. Immediately there were two holds that were discontinued-the seated double embrace and the double basket hold.
Q34 Lorraine Fullbrook: Can you explain a double basket hold?
Mr Banks: I can’t specifically, except it involves the arms across the-it would need more than one person, I do know that.
Chair: I am sure it is not just the two of you from G4S here.
Mr Banks: And indeed there was a distraction technique, commonly called the nose distraction technique that was discontinued. We immediately discontinued-
Q35 Chair: When was that discontinued?
Mr Banks: I don’t have the date, but I can let the Committee know on specific dates on each of those.
Q36 Chair: And what was this technique that you all used?
Mr Banks: Sorry?
Chair: Repeat the name of that technique.
Mr Banks: Nose distraction.
Q37 Chair: And what does that involve?
Mr Banks: That involves a very short chop up on the nose to distract the individual, and that has been discounted.
Mr Banks: And then the implementation-sorry, to get on to the main part of your question as to what’s happened. The changes that came out in July, those are now being implemented throughout the refresher training. So we have the ability, when there are changes, to immediately make changes, even by text to get changes through. And then changes that are recommended can be assimilated through the annual refresher programme, as many of these changes are. Those are now being implemented.
Q38 Lorraine Fullbrook: So from the risk factors identified by the Ministry of Justice in July, how long will it take you to implement these changes in full?
Mr Banks: The immediate issues have been implemented immediately.
Mr Small: We have a number of ways of doing that. If it’s something that is immediate, as of that moment, we use an e-texting system. So even if a custodial officer is out live at that time, they will be informed straight away. That is followed up by a briefing document that they have to sign to say they’ve read or had that instruction told to them. That’s within 24 hours.
I can just clarify, Mr Chair, if I can, the nose distraction technique was taken out of service, so to speak, on 7 December 2007.
Q39 Chair : Thank you. Dr Huppert is going to ask you some final questions on this. But can I just say, is there a bonus given to G4S, based on the number of people they remove? In other words, if you get someone on an aircraft, do you get a bonus if you get them on the aircraft or do you get a bonus when you get them out of the country?
Mr Banks: No, there is no bonus incentive in that way. We are remunerated under the contract on the basis of the work we do, not the achievement of a successful removal.
Q40 Chair: On medical records, does anyone check the medical records before they put someone in one of these grips, or baskets, or locks?
Mr Banks: Yes, before any deportation there is a comprehensive risk assessment and that takes into account many factors, including any medical situation.
Mr Small: That’s carried out by UKBA and then jointly agreed by us.
Chair: We will be questioning Lin Homer about this next week.
Q41 Chair : Finally in your letter to us of 27 October, you expressed sympathy for the family of Mr Mubenga. Have you or your chairman written to the family in any way expressing that sympathy?
Mr Banks: We’ve expressed the sympathy to the family directly through the family’s barristers.
Q42 Dr Huppert: I am concerned that there is one picture that is being presented by you, and it may well be what you see, which is things as they ought to be, and there is a different picture as to what is actually going on. I am concerned about that gap. We see it in the O’Loan Report, "No evidence of consideration of proportionality of the use of handcuffs and leg restraints both before, during and after the use of force". We see "The use of force training which officers receive does refer to the legal obligations governing the use of force. However this was not reflected in the bulk of the case papers which I examined", which fills out this idea that there is a difference between the theory and the practice. We have had a lot of comments where you deal with reports of what has been used. You rely heavily on people reporting which holds they use, which restraints they use, how often; reporting on the use of force, if there are injuries, and similar examples. I know the case I mentioned briefly earlier, and I will send you the details of that.
Mr Banks: Please do, yes.
Dr Huppert: But I do have a track record of e-mail exchanges with the Professional Standards Unit at UKBA confirming it won’t go to the police but that it was reported.
Chair: Dr Huppert, do you have a question?
Q43 Dr Huppert: Do you share my concern that it would be unlikely that somebody working for you who had made a mistake, who had overstepped their mark, would report that to you? And how would you monitor that and check that there isn’t an undercurrent of things happening, which you I am sure would not approve of but which is, nonetheless, happening?
Mr Small: When the deportee is being moved from the centre, for example, and on to the vehicle, that is all covered by CCTV and audio. Every time we have a complaint, or we have some concern over a report that’s come in over control and restraint, the CCTV is automatically reviewed. That’s retained by us, the CCTV. It was pointed out by Dame O’Loan that that should be kept for three months, and we do that now. So we can actually review CCTV of any complaint that’s made during the move.
Q44 Dr Huppert: Do you find discrepancies when you review that?
Mr Small: Very occasionally we will. That might involve just retraining. It might not be necessarily a serious-it might just be the technique used was not fully correct, but very rarely, if at all, are there any serious issues of control and restraint.
Mr Banks: I might add to that obviously a number of deportations take place with charter flights. In those occasions there’s always a representative of UKBA on board, there are medics on board, so there is, if you like, that added assurance relative to charter flights.
Chair: Mr Banks, Mr Small, thank you very much for coming in. Thank you for your initial e-mail to this Committee, following the events of the last 20 days. If there is any further information please write to us, and if we have any further inquiries of you we will write to you. Thank you very much for coming.
Mr Banks: Thank you very much.
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