G4S puts head of scan­dal-hit de­ten­tion cen­tres on leave

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Si­mon Hat­ten­stone and Eric Al­li­son

The head of two G4S-run de­ten­tion cen­tres has been placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave af­ter a se­ries of scan­dals, the Guardian has learned.

Ben Saun­ders is be­lieved to have been put on leave by G4S from his role in charge of Brook House and Tins­ley House im­mi­gra­tion re­moval cen­tres (IRCs) af­ter an un­der­cover Panorama investigation ex­posed abuse there. Of­fi­cers mocked sui­ci­dal de­tainees and one of­fi­cer is al­leged to have at­tempted to choke a de­tainee.

A G4S source at man­age­rial level said: “Se­nior man­agers were called to a meet­ing yes­ter­day and told Saun­ders was put on leave.” G4S de­clined to com­ment.

The com­pany has faced se­vere crit­i­cism over its man­age­ment of the two IRCs. The Guardian re­vealed this week that both ap­peared to make larger profit mar­gins than those agreed with the Home Of­fice. Doc­u­ments showed prof­its be­fore tax were above 20% but the orig­i­nal con­tract showed an agreed mar­gin of 6.8%.

G4S said the fig­ures did not re­flect fi­nal prof­its as they did not take into ac­count com­pany-wide costs and over­heads.

Last week, the Guardian also re­vealed that Saun­ders had been in charge of a chil­dren’s prison in 2009-10 when young­sters were mis­treated. Med­way se­cure train­ing cen­tre in Kent was run by G4S be­fore it gave up its chil­dren’s ser­vices di­vi­sion af­ter abuse and al­leged cor­rup­tion were ex­posed by the Guardian and an­other Panorama op­er­a­tion.

The Home Of­fice is un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure to strip G4S, the largest se­cu­rity firm in the world, of its con­tract to run the IRCs af­ter the lat­est rev­e­la­tions of abuse and pos­si­ble fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

On Thurs­day, Pe­ter Ne­den, G4S pres­i­dent for UK and Ire­land, and Jerry Peth­er­ick, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for cus­tody and de­ten­tion cen­tres, gave ev­i­dence be­fore the home af­fairs se­lect com­mit­tee.

Ne­den told the com­mit­tee chair, the Labour MP Yvette Cooper, that he was not “at lib­erty to dis­close the prof­its”. She replied: “The fact that some very se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions have been made about G4S not pro­vid­ing full and ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion to the Home Of­fice and, also, the fact that this is profit on a ser­vice in which there has now been very se­ri­ous ev­i­dence of abuse and mis­man­age­ment tak­ing place, means that ac­tu­ally it is not ac­cept­able for you sim­ply to pro­vide no in­for­ma­tion about the prof­itabil­ity on these con­tracts.”

When Peth­er­ick was asked whether he had con­sid­ered his po­si­tion, he replied: “Yes. I would be an idiot not to … At the mo­ment, my job is to be the leader. It is my job to take Brook House, and the rest of my busi­ness, through this.”

Cooper con­cluded: “Mr Peth­er­ick and Mr Ne­den, I am afraid that the an­swers you have given do not sug­gest that you have any grip on this at all.”

The Rev Nathan Ward, for­mer duty di­rec­tor at Brook House and now a Church of Eng­land priest, was asked whether he was shocked by the Panorama footage. He replied: “I wasn’t sur­prised, but shocked at the level of abuse that was go­ing on. I had been rais­ing con­cerns about prac­tice within G4S since 2001. In par­tic­u­lar, I raised con­cerns to Jerry Peth­er­ick upon my res­ig­na­tion.”

When asked about G4S mar­gins, Ward said: “I have cer­tainly seen pre­sen­ta­tions with 30% profit mar­gins put on them.” When Cooper asked if it was plau­si­ble that G4S had de­lib­er­ately given false in­for­ma­tion to the Home Of­fice about profit mar­gins, Ward replied “Cat­e­gor­i­cally, yes.”

The Brook House im­mi­gra­tion re­moval cen­tre in West Sus­sex, where BBC1’s Panorama un­cov­ered chaos, in­com­pe­tence and in­ci­dents of abuse

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