G4S puts head of scandal-hit detention centres on leave
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