• February 15, 2010

The Celtic League has written to the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) to express concern about the delays in accessing legal advice for people detained at Police Stations in the Isle of Man Crown Dependency.

The issue was the subject of specific criticism of the Isle of Man Police Service following its last visit in 2003 at which time the Celtic League provided evidence to the Committee.

The CPT pointedly emphasised `access to a lawyer” as one of three `fundamental rights’ of those detained at police stations.

A copy of the letter from the League is set out below:

“CPT Secretariat
Council of Europe
F 67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France

15/02/10

Dear Sir,

Ref: United Kingdom – Isle of Man Crown Dependency

Recalling the visit of the Committee to the Isle of Man Crown Dependency in May 2003, and the “LIST OF THE CPT’S RECOMMENDATIONS, COMMENTS AND REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION” in respect of the Isle of Man.

The Celtic League express concern that the Committees recommendations in relation to the need to expedite access to a solicitor by those detained at Police Stations do not appear to have been acceded to in all instances and in some cases several hours can elapse before access is facilitated.

Bearing in mind the comments in sections 144 – 155 of the Committees report we trust that the CPT will raise the issue with the Isle of Man authorities on its next visit to the Dependency and also that the committee will give adequate advance notice of its next visit so that individuals and NGOs with pertinent information can provide written or oral evidence.

Yours sincerely,

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League”

A copy of sections 144 – 155 of the 2003 report is set out below:

“144. The CPT visited two Isle of Man Constabulary establishments, namely the Police Headquarters in Douglas and Lower Douglas Police Station.

145. Since the CPT’s visit in 1997, the Police Powers and Procedures Act 1998 and the Codes of Practice thereto have entered into force. Under the new rules, the police may detain a person under their own authority for a maximum of two days.

2. Ill-treatment

146. Many persons interviewed by the CPT’s delegation about their experience while in the custody of the Isle of Man police stated that they had been correctly treated. However, a certain number of allegations were heard of ill-treatment, in particular excessive use of force at the time of arrest. The allegations concerned in the main slaps, punches, and rough treatment, including being pushed or thrown violently into police vans and being thrown to the ground.

147. The custody records examined at Douglas Police Headquarters lent credibility to such allegations. During the three-month period immediately preceding the CPT’s visit, the doctors called upon to examine detained persons at the police headquarters had noted six allegations of ill-treatment by police officers at the time of arrest; in three of those cases, the doctor had recorded injuries displayed by the detained persons concerned which were consistent with their allegations.

By way of example, the examining doctor had noted in respect of a detained person: “complaining of injuries which he says were due to being thrown on the ground when arrested. […] 2.2 cm diameter graze under chin. Small graze back of right wrist. 2 cm x 0.7 cm graze on right knee”.

148. The CPT recognises that the arrest of a suspect may on occasion be a hazardous task. However, no more force than is strictly necessary should be used when effecting an arrest. Furthermore, once arrested persons have been brought under control, there can be no justification for striking them. The CPT recommended following the 1997 visit that police officers be reminded of these precepts.

In their response, the authorities made reference to in-service training provided to all Isle of Man police officers on the use of force and on unarmed self-defence. However, in the light of the information gathered during the 2003 visit, the CPT reiterates its recommendation that the above-mentioned principles be recalled to police officers. Further, the message that the ill-treatment of detained persons is not acceptable – and will be the subject of severe sanctions – should also be delivered to police officers in an appropriate manner at regular intervals.

149. One of the most effective means of preventing ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty lies in the diligent examination by the relevant authorities of all complaints of such treatment brought before them and, where appropriate, the imposition of a suitable penalty. This will have a very strong deterrent effect.

150. In this connection, the CPT would like to receive the following information in respect of 2002 and 2003:

– the number of complaints of ill-treatment by police officers lodged and the number of disciplinary and/or criminal proceedings initiated as a result of those complaints;

– an account of the latter complaints and the outcome of the proceedings (allegations, brief description of the findings of the relevant court or body, verdict, sentence/sanction imposed).

The CPT has been informed that the Isle of Man Constabulary and the island’s authorities were due to discuss implementation in the Isle of Man of police disciplinary procedures similar to those adopted by the United Kingdom in 1999, under which suitably qualified persons would preside with police officers on misconduct hearings. The CPT would like to receive further information on this issue.

3. Safeguards against ill-treatment

151. The CPT places particular emphasis on three fundamental rights, namely the right of detained persons to inform a close relative or another third party of their choice of their situation, to have access to a lawyer, and to have access to a doctor. Since the 1997 visit, the first two of these rights have been given a firm legislative basis via the Police Powers and Procedures Act (1998).

a. notification of custody and access to a lawyer

152. Sections 59 and 61 of the Police Powers and Procedures Act 1998 confer upon detained persons the right to have someone informed of their arrest, and the right to access to legal advice. Both rights may be delayed for up to 36 hours; this requires authorisation by an officer of the rank of inspector or above and confirmation by an officer of at least the rank of chief inspector. The detained person must be informed as soon as is practicable of any decision to delay the exercise of the above-mentioned rights, and of the reasons therefor. The grounds for any delays imposed must be recorded.

153. While many persons who were or had recently been in police custody stated that they had been able to inform a relative or another third person of their situation, as from the outset of custody, a certain number complained that notification had been delayed by the police. However, in the custody records reviewed by the delegation, delays were indicated only very rarely. The CPT would like to receive the comments of the Manx authorities on this matter.

154. It appeared that the right of access to a lawyer operated satisfactorily in practice. Under a newly established scheme, a duty advocate was available at the police headquarters from 7 pm to 7 am on weekdays and throughout the weekend. Police officers and detained persons indicated that the system worked very well during those periods. However, the authorities stated that delays in obtaining the services of advocates were frequent at other times. The CPT suggests that consideration be given to extending the Duty Advocate Scheme so as to provide continuous cover every day of the week.

155. Following the 1997 visit, the CPT recommended that the right of a person detained by the police in the Isle of Man to have access to another advocate when access to a specific advocate is delayed be the subject of a legally binding provision.

It is stated in the Notes for guidance to Annex B of Code of Practice C to the Police Powers and Procedures Act 1998 that access to a specific advocate may only be delayed on clearly defined grounds, and that “in these circumstances, the officer in question should offer the detained person access to an advocate […] on the Duty Advocate Scheme”. However, the Notes are not legally binding upon police officers. The CPT recommends that the Manx authorities upgrade the Notes for guidance on this subject to a full provision of Code of Practice C to the Police Powers and Procedures Act 1998.”

Please note the full CPT 2003 report (which contains reference notes to accompany the sections) can be found at the link below. The report on the `Isle of Man’ Dependency is on pages 55 – 68. The reports recommendations (etc) on the `Isle of Man’ are on pages 76 – 79:

https://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/gbr/2005-01-inf-eng.pdf

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