Yarl's Wood Immigration Ltd and Others v Bedfordshire Police Authority

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date30 September 2008
Date30 September 2008
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
Neutral Citation:

[2008] EWHC 2207 (Comm)

Court and Reference:

High Court, Commercial Court, 2007 FOLIO 1241


Beatson J

Bedfordshire Police Authority

I Gatt QC (instructed by Herbert Smith LLP) for Yarl's Wood; J Watson QC, J Beggs and S Cridland (instructed by Weightmans) for the Police Authority


Whether the authority responsible for an immigration detention centre can make a claim under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 against the police in respect of damage to property in the centre caused during a riot by those detained in it


By the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 police authorities are liable for theft or destruction of certain types of property in their area caused by "any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together".

(i) Riot at Yarl's Wood: Under contracts with the government, Yarl's Wood Immigration Ltd build an immigration detention centre on land leased to them by the Ministry of Defence; it was operated by GSL, which was granted a licence to occupy the premises. Contingency plans agreed with the police provided that GSL would pay additional policing costs to cover the police having to remain on site longer than they would merely to fulfil their ordinary duties; and formalised the command structure between GSL and the police when there was a formal handover of control of the incident.

On 14 February 2002, a riot commenced at Yarl's Wood, which continued for several hours and led to the destruction by fire of a significant part of the centre. Police officers secured the perimeter fence, apprehended a group of detainees who broke out and sought to prevent further breakouts; control of the centre was handed over to the police during the course of the riot, GSL understanding that to have been an instruction from the prison service.

(ii) The Claim and the Issues: YWIL, GSL and their insurers brought a claim for damages of £42M under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886, contending that the

police authority was liable for the damage to Yarl's Wood property caused during the riot. The police authority contested the claim, contending that the 1886 Act did not apply to those who run a prison or an immigration detention centre. A trial was ordered of the preliminary issue of whether the claims were outside the scope or intention of the 1886 Act on the basis that the claimants were public authorities carrying out the coercive powers of the state, on account of their responsibilities for maintaining security and good order in the centre, or by reason of the contractual arrangements with the police.

(iii) The arguments: YWIL and GSL argued that the 1886 Act was designed to be a no-fault compensation system for riot damage, such that it did not matter that YWIL and GSL had statutory and contractual responsibilities for ensuring good order within the detention centre and might thus have some responsibility for the losses. They relied on the provision of s2(1) of the Act that "in fixing the amount" of the compensation "regard shall be had to the conduct" of the claimant, which they argued showed that those with some responsibility for the losses were not excluded from the statutory scheme. They also relied on the duty of the police to maintain law and order within the detention centre; and the fact that those working in contracted-out detention centres did not have the power and duty to maintain law and order there (in contrast to prison officers who, while acting as such, have all the powers of a constable, including a constable's power of arrest).

The police argued that the 1886 Act as properly interpreted did not cover the situation; it also relied on a principle that a party upon whom a public responsibility lies should not be entitled to rely on a statutory cause of action such as that under the 1886 Act where the loss claimed arises out of that public responsibility. The police also submitted that "buildings" within the 1886 Act did not include premises being used by and for the purposes of detention and from which the public were excluded, such that it was outside the ambit of police responsibility.



(1) Introduction - para 1

(2) The Preliminary Issues - para 7

(3) Facts agreed for the purposes of the preliminary issues hearing - para 13

(4) The legislation

(A) Riot and liability under the Riot Acts - para 33

(B) Legislation concerning immigration detention centres - para 38

(5) The parties' cases - para 42

(6) Discussion

(A) The status, powers and responsibilities of the parties - para 48

(i) The status of the first and second claimants

(ii) The relationship of the first and second claimants and the Home Secretary

(iii) The responsibility of the Bedfordshire Police force

(iv) Did the first and second claimants have a responsibility in respect of the risk of riot and disorder in the detention centre?

(v) Conclusion

(B) The scope and intent of the 1886 Act - para 100

(i) The general approach

(ii) Do a detention centre's buildings qualify as "buildings" under the 1886 Act?

(iii) Are the claimants qualifying persons under the 1886 Act?

(a) The legislative predecessors to the 1886 Act

(b) Case law on the 1886 Act

(c) Conclusion

(iv) Matters not taken into account

(a) Analogy with alleged common law "source of their own loss" principle

(b)The role of the Home Secretary under the Regulations made pursuant to s3(2)

(c) Statements made during the Parliamentary consideration of the Bill that became the 1886 Act

(7) Conclusions on the preliminary issues and overall conclusion - para 157

Appendix: Extracts from the Yarl's Wood Joint Protocol Agreement and the Group 4 and Bedfordshire Police Contingency Plans for Yarl's Wood

(1) Introduction

1. On the night of 14 February 2002 a major disturbance occurred at the Yarl's Wood Immigration Detention Centre at Clapham, Bedfordshire. Almost half of the premises were destroyed by fire. The issue in this case is whether the authority responsible for an immigration detention centre can make a claim under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 ("the 1886 Act") against the relevant police authority in respect of

damage to or destruction of property in the centre caused by those detained in it during a riot. The Yarl's Wood Immigration Detention Centre is a contracted out immigration detention centre operated by the first and second claimants, Yarl's Wood Immigration Ltd ("YWIL"), and GSL UK Ltd ("GSL"), formerly called Group 4.

2. The 1886 Act imposes liability on police authorities or the statutory bodies responsible for their funds for injury to or theft or destruction of certain types of property in their areas caused by "any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together". That liability replaced a similar liability first imposed by the Riot Act 1714 ("the 1714 Act") on the hundred, a Saxon concept and a subdivision of the county for administrative, judicial and military purposes, or on a city or town which was either a county of itself or was not within any hundred.

3. Those detained at Yarl's Wood and other immigration detention centres are detained and held by the Home Secretary pursuant to powers contained in Sched 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 ("the 1971 Act"). The 1971 Act empowers the Home Secretary to detain a person pending a decision to give or refuse him leave to enter the United Kingdom, or pending a decision to direct that he be removed, or his removal. The provisions for immigration detention centres to be either directly managed by the Home Secretary or to be contracted out are in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 ("the 1999 Act"). They are similar to the provisions in Part IV of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 empowering the contracting out of the running of prisons.

4. It does not appear that a claim has previously been made under the 1886 Act in respect of damage to or destruction of property during a riot at a prison or an immigration detention centre. This case does not concern the application of the 1886 Act to prisons, but the similarity between the positions of the 2 types of institutions is clear. It was not suggested that there is any material difference between the 1886 Act's application to a prison, whether run by central government or "privatised" or "contracted out", and its application to a detention centre. There is a long history of prison riots. For instance, in February 1861, 25 years before the enactment of the 1886 Act, there was a notable riot at Chatham Prison. During the hearing reference was made to the riot and siege at HMP Strangeways in Greater Manchester in 1990. It cost some £55 million to rebuild HMP Strangeways. Fourteen years earlier, in 1976, some two-thirds of HMP Hull in Humberside was wrecked by rioting prisoners. It was accepted by Mr Gatt QC on behalf of the claimants that, on his submissions, the Home Secretary, who was then responsible for prisons, could have made such claims under the 1886 Act against the relevant police authorities and in the future the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor will be able to bring such claims.

5. On 1 September 2000 YWIL entered into an agreement with the Home Office ("the Project Contract") for the design and building of the centre, a hearing facility and associated offices, as well as for its operation and maintenance. On the same date, with the consent of the Home Office, it sub-contracted the operation and maintenance of the detention centre to GSL (the "Operating Contract"). The terms of the Operating Contract between YWIL and GSL reflected those of the Project Contract in all material respects. GSL agreed to be responsible for Yarl's Wood on the same terms as in the agreement between YWIL and the Home Office. On 8 September 2000 the Secretary of State for Defence leased the premises to YWIL and GSL was granted a non-exclusive licence to occupy them.

6. In these proceedings, YWIL, GSL, and the third claimant, Creechurch Dedicated Ltd ("Creechurch"), their insurers, claim...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT