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Hundreds of victims of torture have been wrongly locked up in immigration detention centres, a high court judge has ruled, following a challenge by seven survivors of serious abuse.

Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that aspects of a Home Office policy introduced in September 2016 known as “Adults At Risk” wrongly allowed many who had been tortured overseas to be imprisoned.

The policy redefined torture to refer to violence carried out by official state agents only. As a result, those tortured by traffickers, terrorists or other non-government forces could be held in detention even if expert medical evidence found the scars on their bodies to be consistent with their accounts of torture.

Ouseley found that the narrowing of the definition of torture by the Home Office in its flagship policy lacked “rational or evidence base”.

Tuesday’s 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.”

The judge added that the definition of torture intended for use in the policy would require medical practitioners to “reach conclusions on political issues which they cannot rationally be asked to reach”.

The judgment follows a challenge brought by seven victims of torture in conjunction with Medical Justice, which works to improve the health of immigration detainees. The seven include victims of trafficking, a man kidnapped by the Taliban, and two men tortured because of their sexuality.

One of them, a 39-year-old bisexual Nigerian asylum seeker, who was detained in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre near Heathrow airport between 21 September and 2 November 2016, said that although he had won the case he would not be able to erase the damaging effects of his time in detention.

He was beaten, knifed and flogged in Nigeria because of his sexuality. He was granted refugee status in August of this year.

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