Beds, Herts & Bucks

Yarl's Wood staff accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour

Yarl's Wood detention centre
Image caption An investigation into inappropriate sexual behaviour is under way at the centre

Staff at an immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire have been accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour and police are investigating.

The investigation concerns a 23-year-old Roma woman who alleges she had sexual contact with male guards at the Yarl's Wood centre.

Her lawyer Harriet Wistrich said the incidents could amount to misconduct in public office.

Serco, which runs the 400-bed centre near Clapham, denies the allegations.

Ms Wistrich said the alleged case involving the woman released from the centre last March, was not an isolated one.

"The government needs to look at what the hell is going on at Yarl's Wood, that this could happen in such a widespread abuse," she said.

"It's not a one-off. They need to investigate the whole system there, because it has not worked."

Staff dismissed

She said the issue was whether individuals being detained at the centre were capable of giving consent

"If an officer conducts himself way outside the permitted rules of behaviour, that may amount to another offence of misconduct in public office, whether it was consensual or not, even if it is not an assault."

Ms Wistrich described the women at the centre as highly vulnerable.

John Tolland, director at the centre, said: "Serco absolutely refutes the allegations made that there is an environment at Yarl's Wood where sexual intimidation or inappropriate behaviour is in any way tolerated.

"We have strict procedures for dealing with any such complaints and they are always fully investigated.

"We expect the highest standards of behaviour from all our staff and any claims of misconduct are treated extremely seriously.

"When a complaint of sexually inappropriate behaviour between staff and a resident was brought to our attention in 2012 the matter was properly investigated.

"As a result three members of staff were dismissed."

A Bedfordshire Police spokeswoman said: "We received a report at the end of August from a third party.

"No one has been arrested in connection with this investigation, but the investigation is ongoing."

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