Council of Europe's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Council of Europe's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

On 11 October the Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment published a report on its visit to Scotland from 17 - 25 October 2018. Our Honorary President, Professor Andrew Coyle and Convenor, Professor Richard Sparks, were involved in consultations on HLS's behalf. 

The purpose of the visit was to examine the situation in police and prison establishments in Scotland and to assess the progress made since the CPT’s previous visit in 2012. Specific attention was paid to those held in segregation; in remand; women prisoners generally; and to overall healthcare issues. In addition, the delegation examined the treatment of people in police custody and carried out visits to several police custody facilities across Scotland. 

The Committee’s report made a number of criticisms of the treatment of people held in police custody, including instances of excessive use of force upon apprehension by police officers and an opaque police complaints’ system.

Its critique of prison establishments acknowledged that the Scottish Government had embarked upon an agenda of reform, but that reforms were still at a nascent phase. It noted a rise in inter-prisoner and prisoner-on-staff violence; the prevalence of NPS (new psychoactive substances); unacceptably restricted regimes; and inappropriate use of Separation and Reintegration Units (SRU).

Specific examples of a lack of progress since previous visits by the Committee included the use of “dog boxes” in the reception area of HMP Barlinnie – an issue which was first raised in 1994 – and which had not been resolved; and the negative impacts of severe overcrowding, where some prisoners were being held in cells with less than 3m2 each of living space.

Particularly serious concerns were raised about the treatment of women held in segregation at HMP YOI Cornton Vale, despite seven years having passed since the publication of the Commission on Women Offenders Report, led by Dame Elish Angiolini.

Three immediate observations were made under Article 8, paragraph 5 of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The contrast between the findings of the CPT and that of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland’s (HMIPS) programme of inspection and monitoring were also highlighted, despite the latter’s inspections adopting a human rights based approach underpinned by the PANEL principles of Participation, Accountability, Non-Discrimination and Equality, Empowerment and Legality.

The Response of the Government of the United Kingdom to the Report was a defensive one, unlikely to encourage long-term sustainable change. We will continue to push for action on the important issues raised in the Report.

Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Report

Response to Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Report

Category Prisons

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