Mental Health and Deaths in Prison: Interim Report Contents

3Human rights framework

4.Human rights law imposes a positive duty on the state to protect the life of those in its care, including in prisons. Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to life) places a positive obligation on the State to protect the lives of people who are in the care of the state, including prisoners. This entails an obligation to ensure a safe environment for prisoners, which in turn requires a number of positive steps to be taken, such as effective risk assessment, effective review of that risk assessment at regular intervals, sharing of the risk assessment with relevant agencies, access to timely and appropriate support including specialist mental health services, and regular family contact. Article 2 also imposes an obligation to investigate any such deaths. Overarching all this is the obligation under Article 14 of the Convention to ensure that there is no discrimination in relation to the enjoyment of the right to life in Article 2.

5.In addition to the ECHR, there are other relevant human rights standards which specifically address the treatment of people with mental illness and the treatment of prisoners, such as the UN Principles for the protection of persons with mental illness and the improvement of mental health care, the UN Principles for the treatment of persons under any form of detention, the UN Standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners (the ‘Nelson Mandela Rules’) and the European Prison Rules. There are also specific recommendations of the UN Treaty bodies concerning the treatment of prisoners with mental health conditions, such as the UN ‘Bangkok Rules’ on Women Offenders and Prisoners.

6.Our specialist adviser, Professor Philip Leach, has submitted to us a helpful overview of the human rights law framework relevant to this inquiry; this has been published on our website.5

5 Professor Philip Leach (MHP 0043).

29 April 2017