New 'narrow' Government definition of torture ruled unlawful by High Court judge

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Former detainees and a charity have won a challenge against a Government policy change on torture said to have led to asylum seekers fleeing persecution being wrongly detained in UK immigration centres.

Mr Justice Ouseley ruled in their favour on Tuesday after hearing accusations that individuals were locked up during the processing of their asylum claims despite doctors submitting evidence of torture and ill-treatment to the Home Office.

The charity Medical Justice accused the Government of adopting an unreasonably narrow definition of torture in policy changes made last September related to Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Uncat).

Their QC argued at a hearing earlier this year that there was no "lawful authorisation" for replacing the broader meaning of torture under the Detention Centre Rules 2001 and the change did not comply with the Government's public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010.

They launched the action arguing that the new definition - which has been on hold pending the judge's ruling - had led to "many" detainees, including victims of trafficking, no longer being recognised as victims of torture.

The Home Office had contested the action brought by the charity and seven former detainees.

In his decision given in London, Mr Justice Ouseley said that "aspects" of the statutory guidance at the centre of the case - Adults At Risk In Immigration Detention (AARSG) - in relation to the definition of torture "are unlawful".