Polish couple held for five months after sleeping rough in Lancashire awarded £90k

A Polish couple who were unlawfully detained by the Home Office for more than five months have been awarded nearly £90,000 in damages by the High Court.

Saturday, 19th January 2019, 9:21 am
Updated Saturday, 19th January 2019, 10:29 am
The case was heard at the High Court in London

Iwona Deptka, 33, and Henry Sadlowski, 38, were unlawfully held for 154 days after they were found sleeping rough in Lancashire.

At a hearing in London on Friday, Mr Justice Soole awarded Ms Deptka and Mr Sadlowski £44,500 each plus interest.

However, as Mr Sadlowski died shortly after Christmas his award of damages will be paid to his family in Poland.

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The couple were detained with a view to deporting them as part of Operation Gopik, a national policy to deport European Economic Area (EEA) nationals found sleeping rough in the UK.

But the Home Office later admitted that the pair had been unlawfully detained after a High Court ruling in a separate case in December 2017 that the policy was unlawful.

Ms Deptka and Mr Sadlowski were first detained in March 2017 and initially sent to different immigration removal centres (IRCs).

In her witness statement, Ms Deptka described being "absolutely terrified" in the four weeks she was held in a separate IRC to Mr Sadlowski, saying: "I was so scared. The banging of the doors and the shouts of those detained, I was suicidal."

Mr Sadlowski said in his witness statement that a detention officer told him they could "crush" Ms Deptka if they wanted to, adding: "When I asked about my partner... I was told it was none of my business."

Mr Justice Soole said the couple were eventually reunited in a family unit at Yarl's Wood IRC after "repeated requests", but ruled they were entitled to aggravated damages for the four weeks they were separated.

The judge said the separation had been "particularly distressing for Ms Deptka and was heightened by her emotional vulnerability", adding that "Mr Sadlowski knew of that vulnerability which, in turn, caused him particular emotional distress".

He also found that the couple were entitled to aggravated damages as a result of the Home Office's "undue delay in admitting liability" as well as its "delay in making any apology until this present hearing".

Mr Justice Soole awarded the pair basic damages of £35,000 each, plus an additional £8,500 each in aggravated damages.

The judge also awarded them £1,000 each for the imposition of unlawful reporting requirements when they were released from detention.