EU committee criticises pre-charge detention

A European human rights watchdog has criticised the way the government treats those detained without charge.

The Council of Europe’s committee for the prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment publishes its report a week before parliament reconvenes, when it will push through measures to increase pre-charge detention from 28 to 42 days.

The report followed a visit by committee members to Britain in December 2007, when conditions at Paddington Green police station in London were inspected.

It criticises the government for not transferring detainees from custody in a police station to custody in a prison after 14 days, in accordance with EU rules.

The report adds “the exceptions have very much become the rule” and most suspects are choosing to remain at a police station because they fear they will lose access to their lawyer otherwise.

Legal access at prisons is recommended, while it is “crucial” that the detained person be brought before a judicial authority at regular intervals, the report adds.

“In the interests of the prevention of ill-treatment, the sooner a criminal suspect passes into the hands of a custodial authority which is functionally and institutionally separate from the police, the better,” it concludes.

The government welcomed the report’s findings but sought to defend its procedures in its official response.

It said it believes “sufficient safeguards” exist to ensure expeditious transfers to prison” and backed detainees’ right to request that they remain in detention at a police station.

“Such a request can result from a number of reasons such as the police station being more accessible or nearer to the detained persons home and family or friends who may wish to visit,” its response said.