Prison spot-check axe ‘defies torture guidelines’

Proposals to scrap unannounced spot checks have been criticised by opposition parties at Holyrood. Picture: Robert Perry

Proposals to scrap unannounced spot checks have been criticised by opposition parties at Holyrood. Picture: Robert Perry

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PLANS to end unannounced “spot checks” in Scottish jails have come under fire from opposition parties who warn it could break global anti-torture conventions.

Under the plans, prison governors would be allowed to agree visitation rotas - meaning they would have prior knowledge of when and where independent monitors’ visits would take place.

The Tories have hit out at the plans warning the groups are supposed to keep check on a prison’s facilities and the welfare of inmates.

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: “It is totally unsatisfactory to have a situation where prison monitoring visits are restricted and those running jails are given prior warning.

“That is not only unacceptable to the public but would not result in improved outcomes.

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“If hospitals and care homes can be inspected on the hoof, prisons can be monitored in the same way.”

The issue will come under the spotlight of MSPs at Holyrood next week.

The Tories also warn that the new plans would be in contravention of the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) which the Scottish Government has said it is keen to adhere to.

Mrs Mitchell added: “No-one is arguing improvements don’t have to be made, but these SNP changes – which only we opposed – add confusion where previously there was clarity and are likely to result in an inferior system of prison monitoring.”

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