UK “Must strengthen work to prevent ill-treatment in detention in crucial year of international scrutiny”

The UK’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) – established to scrutinise State detention in all its forms – has called in its annual report for ever greater efforts to monitor conditions and treatment in line with international best practice.

On the eve of the NPM’s 10th anniversary, its Chair John Wadham used its 9th annual report to warn that 2019 is a year in which the NPM and UK Government will receive unprecedented scrutiny by two United Nations committees.

The NPM was established in 2009 by the UK Government to meet its UN treaty obligations under the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

The NPM’s 21 independent bodies have powers to inspect or monitor all places of detention across the UK including prisons, police custody, immigration centres, secure settings for children and young adults and mental health settings. Through the regular, independent monitoring of places of detention, the NPM plays a key role in preventing ill-treatment in detention.

For the first time, in the 2017–2018 report, the NPM has been able to calculate the number of visits and inspections its members carry out every year. It found:

  • Dedicated volunteers made over 66,000 monitoring visits throughout the year to prisons, young offender institutions, immigration detention facilities, police custody, court custody and to observe escorts;
  • There were over 1,500 inspections carried out across the UK.

During these visits and inspections, NPM members regularly highlighted a range of concerns about detainees not being held in safe and decent conditions. They also identified excessive or improper use of restraints on vulnerable detainees – children, those in mental health detention and those detained pending deportation.

However, Mr Wadham stressed the need to enhance the penetration and impact of monitoring by NPM members. “The strength of our NPM model in the UK allows professional inspectors and members of the community to check on what is happening behind closed doors and to try to prevent ill-treatment.

“Unfortunately, there is much more to be done to prevent ill-treatment and improve conditions for detainees and we look forward to more support from the government to make this happen.”

This is particularly important because in the coming year the record of the NPM and the UK Government will be forensically examined by the UN Committee against Torture (CAT), and then by the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), during its first ever visit to the UK.

Mr Wadham added: “The NPM still lacks essential guarantees of its independence and continues with inadequate funding. We know that the failure to make progress hinders our ability to prevent ill-treatment, and will expose us to criticism by both the CAT and the SPT.”

Notes:

  1. The NPM’s Ninth Annual Report gives an overview of its work monitoring detention across the UK from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018. A copy of the Annual Report can be found on the NPM website: https://www.nationalpreventivemechanism.org.uk/.
  2. The NPM Annual Report was laid before Parliament by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice with an accompanying Written Ministerial Statement. The Statement can be found at https://www.parliament.uk/writtenstatements when published.
  3. The NPM was established in March 2009 under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). A United Nations treaty, OPCAT was ratified by the UK in 2003. OPCAT requires the UK to have in place a ‘national preventive mechanism’ to visit all places of detention and monitor the treatment of and conditions for detainees.
  4. Correspondence with the UN SPT highlighting their concern with the NPM’s informal status can be found here: https://www.nationalpreventivemechanism.org.uk/publications-resources/.
  5. In its 14th Report of 2016–17 “Part 1 of the Prisons and Courts Bill”, the Justice Select Committee recommended the UK Government “place the NPM on a definitive statutory basis, in accordance with the UK’s international obligations.” (paragraph 36)
  6. The NPM consists of 21 independent bodies throughout the UK, which have powers to regularly inspect or monitor places of detention and share the aim of preventing ill-treatment of anyone deprived of their liberty. It is coordinated by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
  7. The 21 bodies who make up the NPM are:
    England and Wales

Care Inspectorate Wales

Care Quality Commission

The Children’s Commissioner for England
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services
Healthcare Inspectorate Wales
Independent Monitoring Boards
Independent Custody Visiting Association

Lay Observers

Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Service and Skills)

Northern Ireland

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland

Independent Monitoring Boards (Northern Ireland)

Northern Ireland Policing Board Independent Custody Visiting Scheme

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority

Scotland
      Care Inspectorate

      Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland

Independent Custody Visitors Scotland
Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland

Scottish Human Rights Commission

United Kingdom

Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation

Chair of the UK Torture Prevention Body Calls For Stronger Government Focus on Eradicating Ill-treatment of Detainees

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 15.28.3320th February 2018

Following publication of the 8th Annual Report of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), its Chair today urged the UK Government to focus on the prevention of ill treatment in detention by guaranteeing the independence and resources of the NPM.

The NPM was established in 2009 by the UK Government to meet its UN treaty obligations under the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The NPM’s 21 independent bodies have powers to inspect or monitor all places of detention across the UK including prisons, police custody, immigration centres, secure settings for children and young adults and mental health settings. Through regular, independent monitoring of places of detention – conducted through thousands of visits every year – the NPM plays a key role in preventing ill-treatment in detention.

The Annual Report gives an overview of NPM members’ extensive work monitoring detention across the whole of the UK. Read alongside the body’s recently published figures on the large numbers of people who are detained across the UK (more than 110,000 on 31 March 2017), it underlines the scale of the task for members of the NPM in checking how people are being treated. A copy of the Annual Report can be found on the NPM website: http://www.nationalpreventivemechanism.org.uk

 

John Wadham, Chair of the NPM, said:

“The UK’s NPM has a unique tradition of professional inspectors and members of the community visiting places of detention and their role is an important check on what goes on behind bars and closed doors.

When people are detained the risk of ill-treatment is, unfortunately, always present and, as highlighted in recent inspection and monitoring reports from members of the NPM, they often experience very poor conditions in detention.

OPCAT provides us with a crucial framework to strengthen our work monitoring places of detention, and it encourages us to focus even more carefully on preventing ill-treatment in practice. It is essential that the NPM and our members are given the necessary tools and resources to perform our vital work effectively.

Next year we need to strengthen both the NPM and its members. A key challenge for the NPM is our informal status, lack of legislation and guarantees of independence and, finally, the inadequate nature of the resources available centrally. We are one of the very few NPMs anywhere in the world operating without legislation providing a secure basis for our work. This must change and we will continue to work with the UK Government to ensure this happens.”

Read the Report here

Notes to Editors:

  1. The NPM’s Eighth Annual Report gives an overview of its work monitoring detention across the UK from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017. The report also details the NPM’s thematic work on transitions and pathways between different forms of custodial settings and the body’s recommendations for future action to ensure effective scrutiny across different organisational boundaries and improve the treatment of detainees. A copy of the Annual Report can be found on the NPM website: http://www.nationalpreventivemechanism.org.uk
  2. The NPM Annual Report was laid before Parliament by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice with an accompanying Written Ministerial Statement: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-02-20/HCWS469/
  3. The NPM was established in March 2009 under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). A United Nations treaty, OPCAT was ratified by the UK in 2003. OPCAT requires the UK to have in place a ‘national preventive mechanism’ to visit all places of detention and monitor the treatment of and conditions for detainees.
  4. In its 14th Report of 2016-17 “Part 1 of the Prisons and Courts Bill”, the Justice Select Committee recommended the UK Government “place the NPM on a definitive statutory basis, in accordance with the UK’s international obligations.” (paragraph 36)
  5. The NPM consists of 21 independent bodies throughout the UK, which have powers to regularly inspect or monitor places of detention and share the aim of preventing ill-treatment of anyone deprived of their liberty. It is coordinated by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
  6. The 21 bodies who make up the NPM are:
    England and Wales

Care Inspectorate Wales

Care Quality Commission

The Children’s Commissioner for England
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services
Healthcare Inspectorate Wales
Independent Monitoring Boards
Independent Custody Visiting Association

Lay Observers

Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Service and Skills)

Northern Ireland

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland

Independent Monitoring Boards (Northern Ireland)

Northern Ireland Policing Board Independent Custody Visiting Scheme

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority

Scotland
      Care Inspectorate

      Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland

Independent Custody Visitors Scotland
Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland

Scottish Human Rights Commission

United Kingdom

Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation

  1. The NPM’s Detention Population Data Mapping Project 2016-17 was published on 24th January 2018 and can be found on the NPM website: http://www.nationalpreventivemechanism.org.uk.
  2. The NPM found that more than 110,490 people were detained on 31 March 2017 across: adult prisons and secure settings for children and young adults in the four jurisdictions of the UK; residential immigration detention in the UK; and, mental health settings in England and Wales. Due to variations in the data sets and the way information is collected and recorded across settings and jurisdictions, the actual figure of people detained across all settings and jurisdictions will be much higher. The 110,490 figure does not include: detention in police custody; non-residential immigration detention; military or service detention; customs detention; or those detained under deprivation of library safeguards across all four jurisdictions. It also does not include those detained under mental health legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The numbers of people detained on 31 March 2017 do not include those in police custody (because of difficulties sourcing the data). However, the NPM research did find that between 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017 there were at least 840,607 detention events in police custody across the UK.
  3. Please contact John Steele in HMI Prisons press office on 020 33340357or 07880 787452 if you would like more information.

THE NATIONAL PREVENTIVE MECHANISM REVEALS FOR THE FIRST TIME 124,000 DETAINED EACH DAY IN THE UK

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 19.30.27The UK’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) can reveal that in excess of 124,000 people in the UK are detained on any given day in secure hospitals, prisons, immigration facilities, secure children’s homes, police cells and military prison. The actual number of people detained on any given day is likely to be much higher as it has not been possible to include data for a number of settings.

While a range of population data is available for specific detention settings, there is no collated data that provides an overview of detention across every setting in the four jurisdictions of the UK. This report brings together those figures for the first time and reveals some surprising gaps in the data.

It found that:

  • the throughput of individuals into police custody from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016 was at least 1,220,391. It is not known how many of these were children;
  • an estimated 88,611 adults over the age of 21 were detained on 31 March 2016 or 1 April 2016 across the UK in adult prisons;
  • on 31 March or 1 April 2016 in England, Wales and Scotland there were 6,345 people aged 20 or under detained in youth custody. There were a further 155 under-21s detained in Northern Ireland;
  • there were 3,426 people held in both residential and non-residential immigration detention at the end of March 2016;
  • between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016, there were 63,622 detention events under mental health legislation in England; and
  • between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016, 76,530 applications for Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards were granted in England.

Researchers for the NPM could not obtain from the authorities the total numbers of people in military detention, detention in customs facilities or detention during transfers and escorts between places of detention or courts. Collecting up the numbers of people detained has been more difficult than expected, some of the data is limited and there are significant variations between types of data across each setting and jurisdiction.

These figures are published alongside the UK NPM’s seventh annual report, which also gives an overview of its work monitoring detention across the whole of the UK.

The NPM is made up of 20 independent organisations that monitor all prisons, police custody, immigration detention, secure mental hospitals, secure children’s homes and other forms of detention in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. NPM members work together to deliver the UK’s UN treaty obligations to prevent detainees being mistreated in custody.

This year the NPM appointed its first independent Chair. On behalf of the 20 members of the UK NPM, the new Chair of the NPM, John Wadham said:

“For the first time, we have some real idea of the numbers of people detained across all four parts of the UK. The numbers are not yet as precise as we would like, and collating them was not straightforward. They do show the sheer volume of people deprived of their liberty and the scale of the task for members of the NPM. There is still a lot we don’t know about precisely how many people are detained, where they are held and who they are, and we intend to work with the authorities to improve the accuracy of these figures for next year. The UK’s NPM has a unique tradition of professional inspectors and members of the community visiting places of detention and their role is an important check on what goes on behind bars and closed doors.

“Unfortunately too many of the people we lock up are ill-treated or have to deal with poor conditions in detention. The figures we have published show just how important it is to maintain the focus on improving the treatment of those in detention – whether they are children; people with dementia or other mental health issues locked up for their own good; asylum seekers; migrants or prisoners.”

The NPM’s 20 independent bodies have powers to inspect or monitor regularly all places of detention and all share the aim of preventing ill-treatment of anyone deprived of their liberty. The NPM was established in 2009 by the UK government to meet its UN treaty obligations. Through regular, independent monitoring of places of detention – conducted through thousands of visits every year – the NPM plays a key role in preventing ill-treatment in detention.

Throughout 2015-16, NPM further developed their work on the use of isolation and solitary confinement in the UK by producing comprehensive guidance for the monitoring of isolation in detention. This guidance will be finalised and published in 2016-17. In the coming year, the NPM will also study the issue of transitions and pathways between different forms of custodial settings to understand the issues and to ensure effective scrutiny across different organisational boundaries.

A copy of the annual report can be found on NPM website from 13 January 2017 at http://www.nationalpreventivemechanism.org.uk

National Preventive Mechanism Annual Report published today – solitary confinement a real concern

solitaryconfinementIn his introduction to the National Preventive Mechanism 6th Annual Report published today, Nick Hardwick, the Chief Inspector of Prisons states:

This annual report describes the work of the 20 inspection and monitoring bodies that make up the UK National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). The NPM fulfils the UK’s obligations arising from its status as a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) to ensure the independent, preventive monitoring of all places of detention and carry out other effective preventive measures.

The report focuses first on solitary confinement and isolation, the most restrictive form of custody any NPM member monitors.

Second, it reviews the progress the NPM itself has been able to make in strengthening its own governance and effectiveness in order to share best practice and develop a consistent approach to tackling common concerns. Our work on solitary confinement and isolation is a long-term project that began this year with developing a picture of how it is used across the range of establishments we monitor throughout the four nations of the UK. In the next stage, NPM members will aim to develop some consistent standards and methodology for monitoring its use.

In many cases, detainees are isolated legitimately to prevent harm or provide a calm environment that is in their best interest. However, prolonged solitary confinement or isolation can also have a detrimental effect on a detainee’s mental health, exacerbate behaviour problems and increase the risks of their ill-treatment. It is already clear that poor governance, inconsistent practice and a soothing terminology allow some individuals to be held in solitary confinement for long periods without adequate safeguards – and that includes some of the most vulnerable people in detention, such as children and mentally ill people. Solitary confinement and isolation go under many names: solitary confinement, isolation, separation, care and separation, unemployed disruptive, single unlock, loss of association, losses, basic for violence, basic, group separation, low stimulus, time out, intensive care suite, therapeutic isolation, single-person wards, enforced segregation, removal from association, temporary confinement, separation and reintegration, close supervision centres, special cells, confined to room, duty of care. There is a risk that some of this terminology can obscure the seriousness of the practice and the need for rigorous monitoring and governance.

What all of these processes have in common is individuals locked up on their own for long periods with limited contact with other detainees or staff. In this report we have drawn on United Nations and international standards to define ‘solitary confinement’, 1 and draw a qualitative distinction between this and ‘isolation’ (see page 24 for definitions). Our review shows that it would be possible to have two men with identical mental health needs, disruptive behaviour and self- harm risks held in very different conditions, depending where they ended up. A man in a prison segregation unit might be locked in a dirty cell for 23 hours a day, with no activity apart from a radio to listen to and very limited human contact. A man with identical characteristics might also be isolated in a secure hospital, where he would be kept in his own room, allowed as many of his own things as possible, and visited regularly by staff and health professionals who would help him reintegrate.

A boy of 16 in a YOI might be disciplined by being confined in an adult segregation unit for some days; the same boy in a STC might be confined in his own room for a few hours for the same behaviour. Inconsistencies in the use of isolation and solitary confinement, however, are just one example that demonstrates the need for NPM members to work effectively together to develop common standards and methodologies to improve treatment and conditions across the whole range of detention settings.

The summary of NPM members’ work during the year contained in this report provides further examples of the pressures on the establishments we monitor, and the opportunities to share both the concerns and best practice that have arisen in response to this. Last year, we reported on the major exercise we had undertaken five years after the NPM had been designed to assess how effective it was in fulfilling its responsibilities. This year we can report that real progress has been made. Awareness of their responsibilities arising from OPCAT has increased among NPM members, and this is increasingly reflected in their own monitoring and inspection processes and the development of human rights–based standards. NPM members have agreed to take action to reduce their reliance on seconded staff and avoid conflict of interest where this is necessary.

Members are also working to develop and implement arrangements to ensure detainees and others do not face sanctions because of their contact with NPM members. An NPM website was developed during the year and went live shortly after the year end. NPM sub-groups on children, mental health and Scotland provide an opportunity to share best practice, and coordinate contact with government and detention authorities. Progress on measures to strengthen the NPM’s governance has been slower. Some NPM members in England were themselves subject to welcome calls from parliamentary committees and other bodies for their independence from their sponsoring departments to be reviewed and strengthened. It was disappointing that the government did not accept these recommendations.

The recruitment of an independent chair for the NPM as the first step in establishing its own board – capable of holding members to account for their work, ensuring appropriate consistency and developing a distinct NPM identity – was delayed because of concern by the Ministry of Justice, the responsible department. Frustrating though these delays were, the UK NPM continued to attract widespread international attention as an example of best practice, and members had much contact with other NPMs and states interested in the UK system.

About the time this report is scheduled to be published, in December 2015, the United Nations General Assembly is expected to adopt the Mandela Rules, a timely revision of the 1955 Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and a hugely important contemporary statement by the international community about the responsibility to treat prisoners decently and humanely. This document reasserts the importance of independent detention monitoring. It would be a fitting time for the UK to demonstrate that its own arrangements for preventing ill-treatment of detainees have also continued to develop and meet the new international standards.”

READ THE FULL REPORT