More Than 110,000 People Detained Across the UK, 70 Deaths A Month In Or After Release From Detention

More than 110,000 people were detained in the UK across prisons, immigration centres, secure settings for children and young adults and psychiatric hospitals, according to a snapshot of the detained population last year. The figure, for 31 March 2017, has emerged in new analysis by the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) – the prevention of torture and ill-treatment body established to strengthen the protection of people in detention through independent monitoring in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Chair of the NPM, John Wadham, said the true figure may be higher, as not all government and other official agencies provided complete and comparable data. The figure did not include those held in police custody on 31 March 2017. The figures we’ve been able to collate show staggering numbers of people are being detained across all four nations of the UK. However, because of gaps in official data, there is still a lot we don’t know about precisely how many people are held in all the different places of detention.”

The NPM’s analysis found that on 31 March 2017:

  • An estimated 87,499 adults over the age of 21 were detained in prisons in England, Wales and Scotland;
  • 5,872 people aged 20 or under were detained in youth custody in England, Wales and Scotland;
  • There were 3,389 adults held in residential immigration detention in the UK;
  • More than 15,000 individuals were detained under mental health legislation in England and Wales alone.

The numbers of people detained on 31 March 2017 do not include those in police custody (because of difficulties sourcing the data). However, the NPM found that between 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017 there were at least 840,607 “detention events” in police custody across the UK.

The NPM also found an average of 70 deaths per month, with at least 841 people dying in or following detention in prisons, secure settings for children and young adults, police custody, immigration centres and psychiatric hospitals, including those detained under the Mental Health Act.

The deaths included some of the most vulnerable people held in detention:

  • two children, both aged 17 years old, who died in Secure Children’s Homes in England and Wales;
  • eight young adults aged 18-20 years old who died in prisons or YOIs in England, Wales and Scotland;
  • six adults who died in or following immigration detention; and one apparently self-inflicted death of a person detained in prison for immigration purposes.

Mr Wadham said “Worryingly, we do know from our research that an average of 70 people per month have died in or shortly after being held in detention. “When people are detained behind closed doors the risk of ill-treatment is, unfortunately, always present and, as highlighted in recent inspection and monitoring reports from members of the NPM, they often experience very poor conditions in detention. To prevent ill-treatment and make sure detainees are safe and well-cared for it is vital we have a clear picture of the numbers and needs of people who are held in the different settings across the UK. The figures on the large numbers of people who are detained across the UK underline the scale of the task for members of the NPM in checking how people are being treated. Through regular, independent monitoring of places of detention – conducted through thousands of visits every year by the 21 independent bodies that make up the NPM – our members play a key role in preventing ill-treatment of people in detention. It is essential that, in the next year, the NPM and our members are given the necessary tools and resources to perform this vital work effectively.

Source: National Preventive Mechanism,

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