United Nations inspecting UK prisons amid concerns over treatment of inmates

United Nations inspectors have been drafted into UK prisons and detention centres amid concerns over conditions and treatment of inmates.

The members of the UN subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT) have been touring establishments around the country over the last two weeks.

The first visit of its kind comes after the UK’s national custody and detention watchdog network, the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), raised concerns about the conditions in state detention and the treatment of those being held in centres.

At least 8,000 people in state custody or detention in the UK, including those held under mental health laws, are in centres rated as poor or inadequate for safety, according to the NPM.

This is the first time the UK’s state detention arrangements have come under scrutiny since the watchdog was launched a decade ago, the NPM said.

Inspectors carried out a number of unannounced visits to detention centres in England and Scotland but the locations are currently classed as “confidential”.

The team also viewed the Heathrow Immigration Removal centre, Cookham Wood Young Offenders’ Institution and the Bracton mental health centre, both in Kent, as well as viewing custody cells at St Leonards police station in Edinburgh.

Their findings are expected to be sent to the Government and the NPM within six months.

The reports – which the SPT has urged bodies to publish – are “internationally recognised as authoritative independent reviews of detention and efforts to stamp out abuse and ill treatment in nations visited”, the NPM said.

John Wadham (pictured), the chairman of the NPM in the UK, said: “The committee’s visit comes at a time when our members have repeatedly asked the Government to act on detention and custody failings.

“These include children being locked up for 22 hours a day, rising suicide and self-harm in prisons, abuse of people with learning disabilities and autism in care settings, and vulnerable adults in immigration detention not knowing when they are going to be released.

“We raised the lack of legal basis for the work of the NPM with the SPT and are pleased that they took all our concerns very seriously.

“I believe the committee will make some strong recommendations to the Government when they deliver their formal response in a few months’ time.

“We hope to be able to publish this as soon as we can.”

The NPM is made up of 21 independent statutory monitoring bodies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) National Preventive Mechanism.