A court rules the Home Office was wrong to redefine torture to exclude many cases of abuse by traffickers and terrorists.
Torture victims were wrongly locked up in British detention centres, a High Court judge has ruled.
Seven survivors of serious abuse and a charity won a legal challenge against Home Office rules on asylum seeker detention.
They argued a government policy introduced in September 2016 called “Adults At Risk” defined torture too narrowly – meaning “many” vulnerable people were imprisoned.
The policy said torture could only be carried out by official state agents or terror groups holding territory.
But in his ruling, Mr Justice Ouseley found the Home Office definition “lacked rational or evidence base”.
The judgment states: “The chief problem with the narrowed definition is that it excludes certain individuals whose experiences of the infliction of severe pain and suffering may indeed make them particularly vulnerable to harm in detention.”
Mr Justice Ouseley also said the Home Office guidance would require medics to “reach conclusions on political issues which they cannot rationally be asked to reach”.
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.
The seven detainees involved in the case included victims of trafficking, a man kidnapped by the Taliban and two men tortured because of their sexuality.
The Home Office contested the action but has said it will not appeal against the ruling.
The judgment could lead to dozens of claims for unlawful detention against the Government.
Following the ruling, a spokeswoman for Medical Justice said: “Narrowing the definition of torture by the Home Office demonstrates its sheer contempt for vulnerable detainees whose lives it is responsible for.
“The Home Office should have welcomed our evidence of the policy’s harm suffered by torture victims, not dismissed it.”
Mr PO, one of the former detainees who had challenged the Government, added: “It affected me greatly to be subjected to this unlawful policy. It has left a scar in my life that will never be healed.
“I hope that the decision will benefit other survivors of torture held in immigration detention and it will prevent the Home Office from implementing a policy that will hurt vulnerable individuals in the future.”