The Verne Immigration Removal Centre - satisfactory, but some improvements necessary

The Verne had undergone significant change and had made a reasonable start, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in Dorset.

The Verne, formerly a prison, has been an Immigration Removal Centre since September 2014. This was its first inspection as an IRC. During the inspection, 575 adult men were held. Over half of those detained had previously been in prison following criminal convictions. Outcomes for detainees at this early stage were mixed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • detainees were received well into the centre, despite many experiencing long and often overnight journeys to get there;
  • few detainees reported feeling unsafe;
  • use of force was not excessive and the use of body cameras by managers was a useful measure;
  • the majority of detainees were held for less than two months, but there were some excessive stays;
  • detainees were very positive about their treatment by staff;
  • standards of accommodation were reasonable, health provision was reasonable for most and the needs of those with protected characteristics were recognised early;
  • freedom of movement for detainees was reasonable, lasting about 12 hours a day;
  • there were enough activity places on offer and more were planned, with useful education and vocational training available; and
  • the approach to the assessment of detainees’ welfare needs was promising.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • levels of violence were too high, some of the violence was serious and strategies to tackle violence lacked sophistication;
  • arrangements to support those at risk of self-harm required improvement;
  • unusually for an IRC, there was clear evidence of the availability of new psychoactive substances and illicit alcohol;
  • some legitimate restrictions had temporarily been put in place to deal with these problems, but others were less justified;
  • The Verne remained too prison-like in character for an IRC, with too much inner fencing and razor wire and a high use of separation;
  • the quality of Rule 35 reports, which assess the fitness of possible victims of torture for detention, was variable;
  • many detainees struggled to obtain representation to fight their cases; and
  • the remoteness of The Verne made visits very difficult for many families, though visits facilities were good.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Overall, The Verne was operating satisfactorily. However, despite considerable efforts to prepare the institution for its new role, the environment and staff culture reflected an institution that had not yet come to terms with its new function as an IRC. There was too much violence and there were a number of operational challenges to address if safety was to be improved. Some detainees were held for long periods and safeguards such as Rule 35 procedures were not working well enough. The centre was a reasonably respectful place and detainees were reasonably well occupied, but more needed to be done to improve communications both within the centre and between detainees and their families.”

Notes to editors:    

  1. Read the report.
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. The Verne, formerly a prison, has been an immigration removal centre since September 2014. Services were commissioned by the Home Office but the centre was operated by the Prison Service.
  4. This unannounced inspection was carried out from 2-13 March 2015.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons in HM Inspectorate of Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview.