Nick Tuffney

A Look Back on a Year of Achievements: Nicholas Tuffney Case

Read our Annual Review 

This article is part of a series of ‘In Focus’ pieces which look at some of our key achievements over the past year.

This piece focuses on how REDRESS helped secure redress for British citizen Nicholas Tuffney, who was held and ill-treated in a Panama prison for 16 months. 

In October 2019, the Parliamentary Ombudsman upheld a complaint against the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (formerly known as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office) by Nicholas Tuffney, a British national who was detained and ill-treated in Panama between 2013 and 2014.

Detained on charges which he always denied and were eventually dropped, Tuffney was held for 16 months in conditions which consistently failed to meet international standards. He was initially denied permission to walk, go to the bathroom or wash his soiled clothes and at one point was chained to metal bars in full view of the passing public.

On his return to the UK, Tuffney complained to both the British Consulate in Panama and the Foreign Office about the inadequate consular support he received during his detention but repeatedly received unsatisfactory responses.

REDRESS then helped him submit a complaint (through his MP Helen Whately) to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, which investigates complaints of poor or unfair service from government departments.

The Ombudsman found multiple incidents of maladministration by the Foreign Office. The investigation determined that Embassy staff failed to promptly and adequately respond to Tuffney’s allegation of ill-treatment, should have done more to remedy his other welfare concerns and failed to inform him about what to expect as a detainee in Panamanian prisons.

The Ombudsman recommended reparations including a formal apology, financial compensation and an explanation of changes introduced by the Foreign Office to prevent a recurrence of these failings.

The Foreign Office paid Tuffney compensation and committed to change how they operate. The complaint was only the fifth of 244 to be upheld by the Ombudsman in relation to the Foreign Office  from 2011-2018

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Tuffney.