We have had a wide-ranging debate on this group of amendments. I say at the outset to the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras, on the subject of the report of the all-party parliamentary group, I wrote to Sarah Teather, who chaired that group as a Member of this House prior to the election, with a formal response. On the issue of vulnerability and the use of detention, we have commissioned Stephen Shaw to review a number of the themes that the hon. and learned Gentleman on. We will be coming back to the House to publish Stephen Shaw’s review and to provide the Government’s response to his recommendations. There is ongoing work on and consideration of the issue of vulnerability and the appropriateness of detention in those circumstances.
I underline the importance that I attach to appropriate procedure and to issues of vulnerability being taken into account within the system. The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that I took the decision to suspend the detained fast track system so that I could be satisfied that the checks and balances and safeguards in the system were applied appropriately in the context of issues of vulnerability. I frame my opening comments in that way to give him a sense of the significance that I attach to these issues. Depriving someone of their liberty is a serious thing and needs to be allied to the issue of removal. Indeed, there should be the presumption of liberty, to which I think I have alluded to in a previous debate.
Before moving on to the amendments I will briefly touch on the question of mental health and the appropriateness of detention. I have given a clear indication of the most appropriate setting for someone with severe or significant mental health issues that cannot be addressed in a detention setting. I underline the Home Office policy on the detention of individuals suffering from mental illness: other than in very exceptional circumstances, those suffering from serious mental illness which cannot be satisfactorily managed in detention should not normally be detained. All cases are considered on the basis of particular circumstances, and all factors arguing both for and against detention must be considered when deciding whether to detain. Serious mental health problems are likely to be an argument against detention but do not automatically preclude it. There may be other factors, particularly the risks of absconding and of public harm, that argue in favour of detention, and equally I point to cases where detention may be appropriate. For example, it may be necessary and appropriate in exceptional circumstances to maintain a short period of immigration detention when an individual is to be transferred to local authority care where otherwise they would be released on to the streets with no support and care. It may also be necessary for safeguarding reasons; for example, if an unaccompanied child arrives at a port, especially late at night, and there is uncertainty over whether there are any complicating factors.
I underline—and this is something that I continue to discuss with colleagues in the Department of Health—the transfer from detention to a health setting. Someone with a severe mental health episode is likely to require some form of stay in, for example, a secure mental health unit. It is not appropriate to hold someone with an acute mental health problem in an immigration removal centre. There is guidance in place and we have to analyse the issue carefully on a case-by-case basis. If detention is not appropriate, someone should be dealt with under the Mental Health Acts and be taken to a place of safety such as a secure mental health unit. Equally, where a mental health condition may arise in detention, consideration would be given, particularly if it is a severe episode, to their transfer from an immigration removal centre to a health setting in order to treat them properly and appropriately.