National Preventative Mechanism - Annual Report published

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.

Read the Report in PDF format.

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.”


The UK’s National Preventive Mechanism (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 (UN) 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.

The NPM consists of 18 existing bodies throughout the UK, which are independent and have the right regularly to inspect all places of detention. It is coordinated by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

The 18 bodies who make up the NPM are:

England and Wales

  • Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP)
  • Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB)
  • Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA)
  • Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC)
  • Care Quality Commission (CQC)
  • Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW)
  • Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England (OCC)
  • Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW)
  • Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Service and Skills (Ofsted)


  • Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS)
  • Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS)
  • Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC)
  • Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWCS)
  • Care Inspectorate (CI)

Northern Ireland

  • Independent Monitoring Boards (Northern Ireland) (IMBNI)
  • Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI)
  • Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA)
  • Northern Ireland Policing Board Independent Custody Visiting Scheme (NIPBICVS).