Commission calls for urgent action on human rights concerns in Scotland’s prisons and police custody

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has today joined calls for an urgent government response to a new report detailing serious concerns about practices in Scotland’s prisons and police custody facilities.

The report from the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) follows a visit to several places of detention in Scotland in October 2018

The Commission is a member of the UK’s National Preventative Mechanism (NPM), 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 welcomes the CPT report and asks the Scottish Government to take urgent action to create improvements for people in prisons and police custody in Scotland. Specific areas of concern include inadequate treatment for women with mental health issues, severe over-crowding in prisons and excessive use of force in police custody.

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said:

“People who are detained in police custody or prison are often in a vulnerable situation. Like everyone, they have an absolute right to be free from cruel or degrading treatment, and to be safe from physical and mental harm. These rights are protected in Scotland’s domestic human rights laws and the broader international human rights obligations that we are signed up to as a country.

“Scotland is a country that aspires to provide safe and humane conditions when people are in detention. The CPT report provides important scrutiny of the reality of people’s experiences and throws a clear spotlight on some very worrying conditions and practices. Previous concerns expressed by other inspection and monitoring bodies have not yet been addressed. We therefore hope to see urgent action now taken by the Scottish Government to protect and uphold the rights of everyone in Scotland’s places of detention.”


Notes to Editors

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.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission is one of six NPM members based in Scotland, alongside Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS), Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, Independent Custody Visiting Scotland, and the Care Inspectorate.

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) is one of two international bodies (the other being the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture) tasked with a parallel role of preventing ill-treatment through conducting visits to places of detention. The UK NPM works closely with both bodies during their formal visits to the UK and in response to their recommendations and standards for places of detention.

In October 2018 the CPT visited five prisons and five police stations in Scotland and during the visit met with representatives from the Commission, HMIPS, HMICS. The delegation paid attention to: the treatment of women prisoners; segregation units in prison; and the treatment of detainees in police custody.