HMICS is a member of the United Kingdom’s National Preventive Mechanism, a group of organisations designated under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture to monitor places of detention and report on the treatment of and conditions for detainees.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is an international human rights law which seeks to strengthen protection for those who are deprived of their liberty. It recognises that such people are particularly vulnerable to ill-treatment and aims to prevent ill-treatment through establishing a system of regular visits or inspections to all places of detention. OPCAT requires that States designate a ‘National Preventive Mechanism’ (NPM) to carry out visits to places of detention, to monitor treatment of and conditions for detainees, and to make recommendations for the prevention of ill-treatment.
The UK ratified OPCAT in 2003 and our NPM is made up of 21 bodies who monitor places of detention across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This includes police custody, prisons, court custody, immigration and military detention, secure children’s homes, and places where people are detained under mental health legislation. The NPM members have the power to enter places of detention and speak to detainees and staff in private.
In keeping with its role as a member of the NPM, HMICS carries out regular inspections of police custody in Scotland. We publish reports of these inspections, identify good practice and make recommendations for improvement. To effectively carry out their role, OPCAT requires that NPMs be independent and that conflicts of interest among staff members are avoided. HMICS has therefore committed to ensuring that any police officers who may be seconded to work with us do not form part of our custody inspection team. One of our lead inspectors, Laura Paton, has responsibility for our custody-related inspection activity.
The HMICS Custody Inspection Framework focuses on the treatment of and conditions for detainees and includes a range of indicators setting out what we expect to find during our custody inspections.
The Ninth Annual Report of the United Kingdom’s National Preventive Mechanism (1 April 2017 – 31 March 2018 ) Monitoring places of detention: Ninth NPM Annual Report
Visit the UK NPM website
Police custody in Scotland is also subject to monitoring by Independent Custody Visitors, who are also members of the NPM. A Memorandum of Understanding has been agreed between HMICS and the Independent Custody Visitors.