Statement from the UK NPM in response to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) report to the United Kingdom on their 2021 June visit to England.
The UK’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) is a network of 21 independent monitoring bodies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland whose role is to prevent ill-treatment in detention. The NPM was established in 2009 in accordance with the UK’s obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
The CPT is made up of independent and impartial experts with a wide range of experience in prison and policing, law and health. It was set up under the Council of Europe’s “European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, which came into force in 1989. The CPT conducts visits to all member states where they have unfettered access to places of detention, and the right to move inside such places without restriction. They interview people deprived of their liberty in private, and communicate freely with anyone who can provide information. The UK NPM work closely with both the CPT and the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, during their formal visits to the UK and in response to their recommendations and standards for places of detention.
In June 2021, the CPT visited five police establishments, four prison establishments and five psychiatric establishments. Particular attention was paid to the impact of the restrictions imposed in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, safety and violence in prisons, the situation of female prisoners and conditions in segregation units in the various prisons visited. In addition, the delegation examined the treatment, living conditions and legal safeguards offered to patients, including children and adolescents, held in several psychiatric establishments. Special attention was paid to the use of means of restraint and seclusion of patients in all the hospitals visited. The delegation also visited several police establishments, in order to review the treatment of and safeguards afforded to persons deprived of their liberty by the police.
Wendy Sinclair-Gieben, Interim Chair of the UK National Preventive Mechanism said:
“I am grateful to the CPT delegation for such a comprehensive and reflective report. The UK NPM has enjoyed a long and effective relationship with the CPT and we value the extra level of assurance provided by these periodic visits.
“I am pleased to see the CPT highlight a number of areas of positive practice across a variety of establishments, which reflects much of the findings from individual NPM members. I am also concerned by some of these findings and expect governments and detention authorities to involve our members in their work to take forward these recommendations and to improve the conditions in our prisons, hospitals and detention centres.
“In addition to our core mandate, the focus of our membership now turns to ensuring establishments exit COVID related restrictions as quickly as possible. The NPM have reported on a sluggish return to acceptable regimes in prison, for example. HMIP highlighted in a recent report that while the lack of purposeful activity in prisons pre-dated the pandemic, recent inspections have shown the problem getting worse. The NPM encourage all detention bodies to examine – immediately – their operating plans to ensure detainees are purposefully engaged in a meaningful way. We agree with the CPT that prisoners locked up for 22-23 hours a day was unacceptable during COVID lockdown, it is simply insupportable now.
“The overcrowding of establishments has the potential to impact adversely and intensify pressures in almost every aspect of life for both detainees and staff and has been a key concern of the NPM in consecutive reports for over a decade. I agree with the CPT that a wider review of policies and practices on sentencing is required to reduce the prison population. While I welcome investment in infrastructure to retire those establishments which are no longer fit for purpose, I encourage policy makers to work strategically with partners to reduce the need for additional prison places.
“We absolutely agree that, in psychiatric establishments, patients should be able to appeal to an independent authority against compulsory treatment decisions. The report highlights unsatisfactory levels of use of restrictive practices, including restraining patients in the prone position and instances of long-term seclusion.
“I am extremely concerned by the report that CPT delegates were prevented from accessing two establishments for a period of time. I restate in the clearest possible terms that the CPT have a mandate to access all places of detention, access information relevant to their enquiries and should be supported by local staff to do this. While I am relieved senior officials were able to remedy this, it is vital that such road blocks do not occur again.
“I note the committee’s comment on the statutory nature of the UK NPM. While it remains the long held ambition of the NPM to be placed on a statutory footing – we accept that this is not a key priority for the government and are now focussing on pursuing our core mandate of preventing ill treatment in places of detention.”
Note to editors:
- During its 2021 visit, the CPT delegations visited the following places of detention:
- Durham City Police Station
- Forth Banks Police Station
- Hammersmith Police Station
- Shepcote Lane Police Station
- Wood Green Police Station
- HMP and YOI Bronzefield
- HMP Wormwood Scrubs
- HMP Durham
- HMP Woodhill
- Priory Hospital Enfield
- Bamburgh Clinic, St Nicholas Hospital
- Alnwood Unit, St Nicholas Hospital
- Cygnet Hospital
- St Andrew’s Healthcare.
- The full CPT report can be found here. And the UK Government response can be found here.
- Wendy Sinclair-Gieben was appointed Interim Chair of the UK NPM in May 2022. She is also HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland since July 2018.
- For further enquiries or media bids, please contact Interim Head of UK NPM Sam Gluckstein at email@example.com or 07780222248