Judge showed ‘thought and respect’ in handling Muslim prayer case, says lawyer

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A High Court judge showed “thought and respect” to the Islamic community when he ruled in favour of two Muslims who complained that dirty conditions in immigration centre cells hampered their prayers, a solicitor has said.

Mr Justice Holman decided the men’s ability to pray at specified times in a clean area was hindered when they were locked in 12 metre square cells with other detainees between 9pm and 8am at Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport.

He concluded earlier this month that their human right to freedom of religion, enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, had been infringed without justification.

Mr Justice Holman ruled on Brook House immigration removal centre (Judicial Office/PA)
Mr Justice Holman ruled on Brook House immigration removal centre (Judicial Office/PA)

“The High Court have certainly taken on board the importance of the conditions required for Muslim prayer,” said Mr Kett.

“Ultimately, though, it is now down to the Home Office in its review to show the same amount of respect and thought.”

Mr Kett said the judge had not said how long the Home Office would have to review its “lock-in policy” and its impact on Muslim detainees, but added: “This will realistically have to be done over the coming months.

“We still believe the lock-in regime itself is unlawful because there is no statutory justification for it. And we’ll be reviewing the situation of other clients.”

The judge analysed the case in a hearing at the Family Division of the High Court in London, and delivered a ruling on Thursday.

Lawyers representing the men, who were detained after asylum claims were rejected by immigration officials, said damages would be considered at a later date.

They said the ruling would have implications for other detainees.

Lawyers representing Home Office ministers had contested the men’s claims. They told the judge they would consider whether to mount an appeal.

The men said their religion required them to say prayers at certain times including dawn and sunset. They also said they needed a clean area in which to pray.

They said they could not get to a prayer room at the centre when they were locked in a cell, and a “smelly, dirty” cell toilet was upsetting when they prayed.

They also said other detainees in the cell distracted them.

Mr Justice Holman said the men were victims of “indirect discrimination” because of the particular prayer requirements of the Muslim religion.

He suggested that ministers had not considered how the regime at Brook House, which is privately run by G4S on behalf of the Home Office, would affect devout Muslims.

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