UK Family Law Reform

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National preventive mechanism publishes annual report into UK detention: Concerns about use of restraint

The third annual report of the UK’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) is published today, giving an overview of the state of detention in prisons, police custody, court cells, customs custody facilities children’s secure accommodation, immigration, military and mental health detention.

The NPM is made up of 18 independent bodies and co-ordinated by HM Inspectorate of Prisons. It was established in 2009 by the UK government to meet its UN treaty obligations regarding the treatment of anyone held in any form of custody. The NPM has the right to inspect regularly all places of detention for the purpose of monitoring the treatment and conditions of detainees, with the clear purpose of preventing ill treatment of anyone deprived of their liberty.

Our first report recommended that the government should identify which places of detention are not subject to independent visits by the NPM and ensure that those gaps in protection are addressed. Court cells in England and Wales are now subject to inspection by HMI Prisons, and customs custody facilities by HMI Constabulary and HMI Prisons. While progress on military detention still needs to be made, we are moving closer to the full implementation of OPCAT.

The following year will see the NPM members continue to share their expertise and experience of visiting places of detention and explore issues, such as the extent to which some people who reside in, for example, hospitals and care homes, may be considered detained if they are prevented from leaving should they choose to do so and whether there are sufficient safeguards to protect people in these situations.

This report highlights key joint areas of work undertaken during the year on the use of force and restraint, escorts and lay monitors.

On behalf of the 18 members of the UK NPM, Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said:

"The use of force and restraint is a key concern to all members of the NPM, regardless of the type of detention monitored or the jurisdiction in which they operate. We therefore reiterate in this report the key components of a lawful, safe and effective system of force and restraint.

"We acknowledge that detainees may be particularly vulnerable while they are being escorted to, from or between places of detention and overseas. We make recommendations to authorities responsible for escorts aimed at ensuring they strike an appropriate balance between transporting detainees securely, and doing so safely and humanely and without resorting to disproportionate security measures.

"In this report, we also highlight the valuable work of the lay monitoring bodies within our NPM and make recommendations aimed at strengthening the remit of lay monitors who have a key role to play in ensuring that OPCAT is effectively implemented in the UK. In this regard it is important to note that the work of four of the 18 NPM members is carried out by volunteers who monitor prisons and police custody in their local communities. They do so with impressive frequency and commitment."

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