Women are fully aware of and understand their detention, following their arrival at the centre and on release. Women are supported by the centre staff to freely exercise their legal rights.

21. Women understand why they are being detained and are informed about the progress of their case.

The following indicators describe evidence that may show this expectation being met. They do not exclude other ways of achieving it.

  • Each detainee has a named and easily accessible Home Office contact to answer their questions and keep them informed of the progress on their case. Women are given the name and contact details of the responsible Home Office case owner.
  • On site Home Office staff meet with women within 24 hours of arrival to answer questions and explain individual reasons for their detention, appeal and bail rights, how to obtain good quality independent legal representation and any other relevant matters.
  • Women who have been detained following a custodial sentence understand their position and have appropriate documentation explaining their status, including any licence conditions.
  • Women are given progress reports at least monthly and following any change of circumstances or submission of new information to the Home Office. Reports focus on progress and do not simply repeat previous information.
  • All information is given to women in a language and format they understand. Interpreters are always available in interviews to allow women to express themselves fully, and understand their rights and any important decisions.

22. Casework is progressed promptly and reviewed effectively to reduce the potential harmful impact of ongoing detention.

The following indicators describe evidence that may show this expectation being met. They do not exclude other ways of achieving it.

  • Casework is progressed promptly and case planning ensures that detention is for the shortest period that is reasonable to reduce the potential harmful impact of ongoing detention.
  • There is effective oversight of case planning.
  • Women are only held for reasons that are legitimate and for purposes that are achievable within a reasonable period of time.
  • Detention is reviewed regularly taking full account of factors for and against the decision to detain, alternatives to detention, and any information/assessment of vulnerability15 held by the centre.

15There is no universally agreed definition of vulnerability in detention. As Stephen Shaw’s 2016 report (Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons: A Report to the Home Office, CM9186) points out, some commentators consider all of those in detention to be vulnerable because they are detained. Others prefer to describe groups that are in ‘situations of vulnerability’, as opposed to intrinsically vulnerable groups, thereby stressing the largely contextual nature of vulnerability. It is common for groups such as those with serious mental or physical health problems, children, elderly people, pregnant women, LGBTI people, people with disabilities, asylum-seekers, and those who have experienced torture, trafficking or gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation, to be considered especially at risk of harm or neglect in detention. In these Expectations, we use the terms ‘vulnerable’ and ‘vulnerability’ to refer to these groups, but also to any other individuals or groups who may be at risk of harm or neglect as a result of other personal, social and environmental factors; these factors may be fixed or change over time and the degree of vulnerability may change as a result.

23. Women have effective access to independent legal representation.

The following indicators describe evidence that may show this expectation being met. They do not exclude other ways of achieving it.

  • Women are able to speedily obtain regulated and good quality independent legal advice and representation in a language they understand, including prompt and unrestricted access to advice surgeries when needed.
  • Women receive information on how to complain about poor quality legal representation. Centre staff are alert to detainees being exploited by poor or fraudulent advisers.
  • Women are able to contact their legal representatives without impediment and can take copies of legal documents before sending them to legal representatives, the Home Office, tribunal or courts.
  • Women are able to communicate with their legal representatives confidentially by phone, fax, letter, email and video conferencing.
  • In appropriate cases, women are able to have their legal representatives, and interpreter if necessary, present during interviews with immigration staff and are provided with a copy of interview notes or recordings.
  • Women have prompt and unrestricted access to private legal visits.
  • Legal representatives have access to their laptops and a phone, and can arrange to pay for the centre’s telephone interpretation facilities if needed.
  • Women have prompt access to their Home Office and medical records and are advised of their right to request them.
  • External doctors commissioned to report on the health of detainees are given prompt access.
  • Women have access to up-to-date legal textbooks, their personal documentation and other reports or material necessary to help their immigration or asylum case.

24. Women are easily able to make applications for release.

The following indicators describe evidence that may show this expectation being met. They do not exclude other ways of achieving it.

  • Bail application forms and information about procedures are available.
  • Women receive proper notice of bail and appeal hearings, and are able to attend on time.
  • On conclusion of a bail hearing, women have a copy of the bail notice and understand the reasons for any refusal of bail.
  • Women are not transferred when this would frustrate a bail application listed locally.
  • Women receive copies of bail summaries by 2pm on the working day before their bail hearing, regardless of whether or not they are legally represented. Where the detainee cannot read English, the contents are explained in a language they understand.

Human rights standards

Legal rights
In relation to expectations 21–24 above: Human rights standards permit detention for immigration purposes only in accordance with law and only as a measure of last resort. Detainees must have the reasons for their detention explained to them and be able to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. See EPR 30.3; BOP 9–14; TGFR 6–9; ECHR 5; ICCPR 9; UNHCR–DG 4, 7; CPT 1, 2.

In addition, standards require detainees to be able to access independent legal advice and to be allowed confidential visits and correspondence with their legal representative. See EPR 23; BOP 17, 18; SMR 61; BRPL 8; CPT 2.