Report highlights human rights concerns in Scottish prisons

A report published today monitors Scotland’s progress against recommendations made by an international human rights body to tackle human rights concerns in Scotland’s places of detention. The report highlights a series of issues that need to be fully addressed by the Scottish Government.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) inspected Scottish prisons and police stations in 2018 and 2019. The CPT made key recommendations to tackle issues such as overcrowding and lack of mental health support.

Today’s report by the Scottish sub-group of the UK National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) points to some positive steps that have been taken to address these recommendations. However it also raises concerns that many have not been fully addressed.

The Commission fully supports the sub-group’s two key recommendations, calling on the Scottish Government to:

  • implement all CPT recommendations and regularly monitor progress on their implementation now and in the future.
  • undertake concerted and coordinated action between the executive, police, prosecution services and the courts to give full effect to the presumption of liberty. This will go some way to addressing the systemic issues at the heart of many CPT recommendations.

Speaking as the Chair of the NPM Scottish Subgroup, Commission Chair Judith Robertson said:

“The NPM Scottish subgroup welcomes the CPT recommendations made after the committee’s important 2018 and 2019 visits to Scotland and we acknowledge some positive steps taken by Government to respond to these.

However, this report raises serious concerns. We call on the Scottish Government to implement the outstanding recommendations as soon as possible, in particular taking note of the need for a concerted effort to effectively apply the presumption of liberty.

This report is a significant step towards monitoring progress, but more work is needed by the Scottish Government to regularly monitor how these recommendations are addressed both now and in future.”


Notes to editors:

1. The UK NPM was established in March 2009 as part of the UK’s commitment under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). It is made up of 21 statutory bodies that independently monitor places of detention.

The Scottish Sub-group was established in 2014 and represents the interests of Scottish members of the UK NPM. The current members of the sub-group are:

  • Scottish Human Rights Commission (Chair)
  • HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland
  • The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland
  • Care Inspectorate
  • Independent Custody Visitors Scotland
  • HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland

2. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)  is an international body with a role to prevent ill-treatment through conducting visits to places of detention. The UK NPM works closely with the CPT during their formal visits to the UK and in response to their recommendations and standards for places of detention.  In October 2018, a delegation from the CPT visited five prisons and five police stations in Scotland. The report on this visit is available here. In October 2019, the CPT carried out a visit to men’s and women’s prisons in Scotland, the report on this visit is available here. The Scottish Government submitted its official responses to these CPT reports in 2019 and 2020 respectively.