New report on torture prevention in UK

Monday, 19 December, 2016

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is publishing a new report today on the role of inspection in preventing torture and mistreatment in custody.

The report, Preventing Torture in Custody, examines the work of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). Little known of outside specialist circles, the NPM works across the four UK nations and regions to strengthen the protection of people in detention, identify practices that could amount to ill-treatment, and ensure a consistent approach to inspection, in line with international standards.

The UK NPM is one of over 50 NPMs that have been established in various United Nations member countries. As the report points out, it has made a positive contribution in some areas. These included recommendations in relation to immigration removal and to the detention of young people in police custody, as well as work highlighting the lessons of deaths in custody.

As is plain from the recent rise in prison suicide, important gains can quickly be undone. The report also documents a number of areas of ongoing concern. These include the use of restraint on children in custody that is intended to inflict deliberate pain, and the use of TASERs in prisons. The indefinite detention of asylum-seekers and the lack of mental health services for people in detention are areas of concern.

The United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT), which oversees the work of NPMs across the world, has called on the UK government to ‘set concrete targets to reduce the high level of imprisonment and overcrowding’. Since the CAT made this call in 2013, the situation has deteriorated markedly.

Speaking today, Richard Garside, Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said:

People in custody are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment. While the work of inspection coordinated by the UK NPM cannot, of itself, prevent mistreatment, an independent inspection system can shine a light in the dark corners of places of detention and challenge governments and state institutions to hold to important international norms and standards.