Commissioner supports urgent action for children deprived of liberty

22 October 2019

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner supports the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the UK’s National Preventative Mechanism network’s call for urgent action on children who are deprived of their liberty, following the recent Report of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture .

Head of Advice and Investigations, Nick Hobbs said:

“Every child deprived of liberty has the right to be treated with humanity, dignity and in a way that takes into account the needs of their age. We are clear that depriving children of their liberty must only be a measure of last resort, must take place for the shortest possible time and should always been in an age-appropriate facility. Our office supports the full implementation of the Committee’s recommendations to governments to take urgent action to ensure that any child deprived of their liberty in Scotland is guaranteed their human rights.”

The Committee highlighted significant concerns about the care and treatment of individuals who are detained and deprived of their liberty in prisons and police custody in Scotland, stressing that the “ ill- treatment of detained persons is illegal, unprofessional, and [must] be appropriately investigated and sanctioned.”

The Committee reported particular areas of concern including:

  • excessive use of force during control and restraint
  • mental health care and treatment
  • overcrowding

The Committee recommends that Scottish authorities take action and has offered solutions to ensure:

  • medical examinations in police custody are done in private and there is consistent recording of injuries by NHS health-care staff.
  • the “ development of step-down facilities and ...small therapeutic units ...robust psycho-social support system ...to facilitate their reintegration process and provide a feasible alternative to prolonged segregation” to “break the cycle” of long-term segregation.
  • sufficient mental health care and treatment is guaranteed for all prisoners, including transfers to secure psychiatric facilities if necessary.
  • a “decrease [in] the numbers of people held longer than 24 hours in police custody before Court …including opening of some Saturday courts.”
  • “body-cameras are worn by front-line prison staff and turned on for all control and restraint operations.”
  • in new facilities, create “ cells of 8 square metres to hold no more than one prisoner, and cells of 12 square metres to hold no more than two prisoners” .
  • sufficient provision of “purposeful activities, education and sport and risk-assessed association time...with at least two hours of meaningful human contact every day.”

We support full implementation of the Committee’s recommendations to the governments to take urgent action to ensure that the human rights of anyone deprived of their liberty in Scotland will be guaranteed, irrespective of age, or place of detention.