#UKNPM

Why Oversight of Detention Matters? Why in the United Kingdom? Why in Canada?

Why Oversight of Detention Matters

“Every time an independent volunteer or inspector visits a place where people are detained it increases openness and transparency. The visit creates a less closed atmosphere and gives those detained an opportunity to voice their concerns. Importantly, it reduces the likelihood that the conditions of detention will deteriorate any further and reduces the chances that the detained person will be ill-treated. NPM members listen carefully to detainees and staff, make recommendations for change and drive forward improvements in conditions, reducing still further the risk of ill-treatment. At the core of the UK NPM’s work is a human rights approach – placing the lived experience of detainees at the heart of the inspection and monitoring process and drawing on international standards and best practice to assess treatment and conditions in detention.”


John Wadham, Chair, United Kingdom’s National Preventive Mechanism, Ninth Annual Report 2017-2018, published 29 January 2019.


  • Did you know? In 2017-2018 UK NPM inspectors carried out at least 1,580 inspections across the UK.
  • Did you also know? Dedicated UK NPM volunteers made at least 66,053 monitoring visits throughout the year to prisons, young offender institutions, immigration detention facilities, police custody, court custody and to observe escorts.
  • Do you know who is undertaking these functions in Canada?

Yet if you think that all is fine in UK-based custodial settings, then please think again. The UK NPM’s 2017-2018 Annual Report paints a less-than-flattering picture of an array of detention settings in the country, as the following excerpt aptly reveals:

“… the risk of ill-treatment for those detained in settings across the UK has, if anything, increased since last year. NPM members this year continue to report concerns that detainees are not being held in safe and decent conditions. There were serious concerns about safety in a number of prisons and detention centres in England and Wales. We have discovered poor physical conditions and conditions not fit for purpose, and excessive or improper use of restraints on some of the most vulnerable detainees – including children and young people, those in mental health detention and those detained pending deportation from the UK.”

But this is exactly why the United Kingdom needs an effectively functioning National Preventive Mechanism under the OPCAT, now nearly 10-years into its existence. For very similar reasons, it is high time that Canada ratifies the OPCAT and institutes such an independent oversight mechanism too.

Unless, of course, you think that the conditions and treatment of persons held in detention in Canada are so much better than in the UK? If so, how can we really know?

Canada has been promising to ratify the OPCAT since 2006. That time is now.


Learn about the OPCAT process in Canada.

Read more about the UK National Preventive Mechanism’s Ninth Annual Report 2017-2018.

Why Oversight of Detention Matters

Find out more about the activities of the UK’s NPM.

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