Prisons and Courts Bill

Written evidence submitted by John Wadham, Chair of the UK National Preventive Mechanism (PCB 08)

I would like to take this opportunity to provide my views on the reference to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) at 5ZA(5) in the Prisons and Courts Bill.

I work closely with the Chief Inspector of Prisons who is one of the members and the coordinating body of the UK National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), which I chair. The UK NPM was designated by the government in 2009 to fulfil the UK’s obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which the UK ratified in 2003. It is made up of 21 statutory bodies that monitor places of detention with a view to preventing ill treatment.

I welcome the explicit reference to OPCAT in relation to the role of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Prisons, which puts beyond doubt the crucial role they play in delivering the UK’s international obligations. I have previously raised with the government, the Justice Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights the need for the NPM to be provided for in legislation, [1] in line with international requirements. [2]

One crucial element of achieving this is for individual members of the NPM to have specific reference to their OPCAT roles in their legislation. This is particularly important for HMIP because of its role as the NPM’s coordinating body.

I welcome amendments 16 and 17 proposed by Richard Burgon, Yasmin Qureshi and Nick Thomas-Symonds, which make the reference to OPCAT more meaningful by requiring action from HMIP rather than simply stating its role. I am confident that HMIP will be able to deliver on this statutory requirement.

March 2017


[1] See http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/human-rights-committee/mental-health-and-deaths-in-prison/written/48220.html and http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/justice-committee/prison-reform/written/45906.html

[2] The mandate and powers of the NPM should be clearly set out in a constitutional or legislative text", UN SPT, Guidelines on national preventive mechanisms , 9 December 2010 (CAT/OP/12/5); see also UN SPT, Analytical self-assessment tool for NPMs , 6 February 2012 (CAT/OP/1).

 

Prepared 27th March 2017