University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
U.N. Doc. A/48/44, paras. 261-283 (1993).



Convention Abbreviation: CAT


Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: dependent territories

261. The Committee considered the initial report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on its dependent territories (CAT/C/9/Add.10) at its 132nd and 133rd meetings, on 18 November 1992 (see CAT/C/SR.132, 133 and 133/Add.2).

262. The report was introduced by the representative of the State party, who pointed out that, in addition to the nine dependent territories covered by the report (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena and Turks and Caicos Islands), the Convention would be extended by the end of the year to the other remaining dependent territories, namely, Bermuda, the Channel Islands, Hong Kong and the Isle of Man. The representative then outlined the history and the main socio-economic conditions of the nine dependent territories under consideration and pointed out that they were all inhabited by democratic communities which had a very large measure of local autonomy and very similar legal systems based on the English system.

263. He stated that all the dependent territories except the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Pitcairn and Saint Helena had human rights provisions in their Constitutions, in each case modelled on and derived from the European Convention on Human Rights; and each contained a provision explicitly prohibiting torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In all cases, the constitutional provisions also included an enforcement provision giving anyone who claimed to have been subjected to or threatened with torture or inhuman treatment the right to have access to the Supreme Court and giving the Supreme Court the power to grant whatever redress the circumstances of the case required.

264. In addition, the dependent territories had legislative and administrative measures which laid down in great detail the procedure that the police must follow in dealing with detained persons, in particular with regard to their treatment, interrogation, the admissibility in evidence of confessions etc. In the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and Saint Helena those measures corresponded almost exactly to the United Kingdom Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 and the various codes of practice promulgated under it. In the other territories, those measures had been elaborated by the Judges' Rules, a set of administrative rules drawn up originally in 1913 and revised from time to time by the judges and brought up to date, as necessary.

265. The representative also pointed out that the discretion to refuse to extradite, accorded to the Home Secretary in the United Kingdom and to the governors in the dependent territories, would be used in the sense of non-extradition in cases where there were substantial grounds for believing there to be a danger of torture. On the other hand, adequate powers were available in all circumstances for the extradition of alleged torturers in accordance with the provisions of articles 7 and 8 of the Convention.

266. Members of the Committee expressed general satisfaction at the way in which the Convention was being implemented in the United Kingdom dependent territories and focused their attention on certain points which needed clarification.

267. With reference to article 2 of the Convention, information was requested on procedures concerning custody and preventive detention and, in particular, their legal duration, especially in Gibraltar where there was a heavy inflow of immigrants and economic refugees. It was also asked whether the dependent territories had any military forces and, if so, whether the rules relating to power of arrest, interrogation and bringing before a court that applied to the civilian police forces also applied to military forces. In addition, it was asked how soon after being taken into custody a person was brought before the judge, whether legal aid was available, whether a person could be held incommunicado and whether persons on remand were segregated from convicted prisoners.

268. With reference to article 3 of the Convention, it was asked how the extradition laws of the United Kingdom came into play in connection with expulsion or return (refoulement).

269. In connection with article 7 of the Convention, some clarifications were requested about the text of provisions relevant to its implementation which were contained in section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. It was also observed that some of the dependent territories were relatively close to places where torture was known to be practised and that it was likely that torturers fled there. In that connection, it was asked whether information was available concerning the arrest and arraignment of such individuals or their extradition to non-Commonwealth countries.

270. With reference to articles 8 and 9 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to have further assurance that the rules governing their implementation in the dependent territories were applied to all States parties to the Convention, whether or not they had signed an extradition treaty or a treaty on mutual judicial assistance with the United Kingdom. Additional information on the scope of mutual judicial assistance was also requested and it was recalled that such assistance should, according to the Convention, extend beyond the process of extradition.

271. With regard to article 10 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to know how education and information on the question of torture were imparted to police officers and prison staff in the dependent territories. It was stressed that postgraduate training for doctors and other health professionals, with emphasis on diagnosis and rehabilitation, and training for border police in the identification of victims of torture, were particularly important.

272. In connection with articles 12 and 13 of the Convention, it was asked whether there had been any recent cases of torture in any of the dependent territories, and whether bodies analogous to Gibraltar's Police Complaints Board existed in any of the other dependent territories.

273. Referring to article 14 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to know whether there were criminal injuries compensation schemes in the dependent territories and whether the principle of vicarious liability of the State applied with regard to compensation.

274. In connection with article 15 of the Convention, it was noted that, according to the part of the report on the Cayman Islands, answers to questions by the police "may be inadmissible in evidence" if the Judges' Rules were disobeyed. It was observed that those Rules provided that answers to questions must be obtained voluntarily and not under duress and therefore a more categorical statement of inadmissibility seemed to be necessary.

275. With regard to article 16 of the Convention, it was asked whether corporal punishment was resorted to under any circumstances, either as part of a sentence or as a disciplinary measure.

276. In his reply, the representative of the State party, referring to article 2 of the Convention, indicated that in the United Kingdom dependent territories a person could be arrested and detained only if he was legitimately suspected of having committed a criminal offence or for purposes of extradition. Detention incommunicado was authorized only in very special circumstances and for a very limited time. The time that elapsed between a person's arrest and his being brought before a court varied, but in practice the maximum time was in general 48 hours. In certain territories prison regulations required the separation of pre-trial detainees from those who had been sentenced, whereas in others, the smaller ones, separation was not possible because of size limitations. Equally, the Constitutions of certain territories provided that anyone who was charged with an offence could have himself represented by a lawyer at State expense, but even in the absence of a provision of that kind, the defence of the accused was paid for by the State in the event of a serious offence. As for the power granted to the military, he explained that most of the territories did not have any armed forces. Where armed forces were maintained they had no police powers or power of arrest save in very exceptional circumstances. In such cases all the rules concerning arrest and questioning were applicable to the military.

277. With reference to articles 8 and 9 of the Convention, the representative stated that a person could be extradited if the offence for which he was sought was an act of torture prohibited by law, in accordance with United Kingdom legislation. In addition, most of the territories intended to adopt legislation based on criminal legislation in force in the United Kingdom which established extensive machinery for international cooperation in criminal cases.

278. With regard to article 10 of the Convention, the representative stated that medical personnel and police officials in the dependent territories were trained in prohibition against torture in accordance with international standards on the subject. The texts of the rules applicable in human rights matters were disseminated and available in all medical centres and police stations.

279. In respect of article 12 of the Convention, the representative stated that no case of torture had been reported in the dependent territories since well before the entry into force of the Convention.

280. Referring to article 14 of the Convention, the representative explained that virtually all territories had legislation equivalent to the Crown Proceedings Act of 1946, under which an action could be brought against a Government that was supposed to be responsible for the acts of its agents. In addition, provisions of the Penal Code or Code of Criminal Procedure made it possible to order an individual to pay compensation to his victim. Criminal courts could, therefore, sentence the guilty party to imprisonment and also order him to compensate the victim. A civil court in which the victim had brought an action to obtain redress for any wrong suffered would take into account the fact that part of that wrong had already been compensated under the criminal procedure.

281. In connection with article 15 of the Convention, the representative clarified that, if it was alleged that confessions had been obtained or could have been obtained under duress, the court was required to declare them inadmissible unless the prosecution was able to prove that that had not been the case. The court has no discretion to admit an involuntary confession. The court does, however, have discretion in cases where confessions have been obtained voluntarily but not in conformity with the law.

282. Turning to article 16 of the Convention, the representative stated that corporal punishment existed in certain territories. It was imposed as a disciplinary measure for detainees and was also practised in the schools. The Government of the United Kingdom deplored the maintenance of corporal punishment and had urged the territories to abolish it. Some had done so whereas others had not. It was difficult for the United Kingdom to bring pressure to bear in that matter, since it was within the competence of the territories themselves.

Conclusions and recommendations

283. The comprehensive report on the dependent territories of the United Kingdom was received with pleasure by the Committee, particularly as no cases of torture were noted to have occurred in the territories during the period reviewed. The territories appeared to be governed in accordance with the obligations in the Convention and the Committee congratulated the Government of the United Kingdom in this respect. The Committee was, however, interested in receiving more detail pertaining to cases of corporal punishment in the territories retaining it. The nature and incidence of such punishment, together with details of the crime and the characteristics of the offender, should be forwarded to the Committee when the information is gathered. The Committee also looked forward to receiving the other information that the representative of the United Kingdom agreed to forward to it.

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