As part of an ESRC IAA funded project, the ‘Border Criminologies’ research group in the University of Oxford has published a briefing paper outlining the methodology used by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), which inspects places of confinement in the UK, including prisons, police and court custody, and military detention. HMIP has also been routinely monitoring immigration detention since 2004.

HMIP, which was established in its modern form in 1982, is the coordinating body of the UK National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), whose role is to monitor human rights under the terms of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). As such, under the terms of the OPCAT, it has functional independence and a separate budget.

The key principles of HMIP’s detention monitoring have remained constant since the start of routine inspections in 2004. They include:

  • Robust independence and impartiality;
  • Unfettered access to detention, with the ability to arrive unannounced, go anywhere, talk to anyone and obtain relevant information;
  • Listening to detainees;
  • And unfettered right to publish findings and access to the media.

HMIP is able to publish whenever it wants without interference from government departments. The briefing paper states that “HMIP’s influence relies to a large extent on its reputation with the public and media.” In an Irish context, the Inspector of Prisons reports to the Minister for Justice and Equality, who holds the power of publication of inspection reports.

To read the Briefing Paper on the HMIP Detention Monitoring Methodology in full on the Univerity of Oxford website, click here.

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