Monitoring places of detention
This page provides information about the Ombudsman’s role in monitoring places of detention under the Crimes of Torture Act
- What is the Crimes of Torture Act?
- What places of detention does the Ombudsman visit?
- Other places of detention
- The inspection and monitoring process
- International visits
- Where can I find out more?
The Crimes of Torture Act (the Act) gives effect to New Zealand’s international obligations under the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (“OPCAT”).
The objective of OPCAT is to establish a system of regular visits by independent international and national bodies to places of detention, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The Act provides for the designation of “National Preventive Mechanisms” (NPMs), whose role is to examine, at regular intervals, the conditions of detention and treatment of detainees, and make recommendations for improvement. It also provides for the designation of a “Central Preventive Mechanism” (CPM), which is responsible for coordinating the activities of the NPMs, and liaising with the United Nations.
The Ombudsman is responsible for examining and monitoring the treatment of people detained in:
- prisons and court cells
- immigration detention facilities
- health and disability places of detention (e.g. hospitals and secure care facilities)
- child care and protection and youth justice residences.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority is responsible for examining and monitoring the treatment of people detained in Police custody.
The Children’s Commissioner is jointly responsible with the Ombudsman for examining and monitoring the treatment of children and young people detained in child care and protection and youth justice residences.
The Inspector of Service Penal Establishments is responsible for examining and monitoring the treatment of people detained in defence force penal establishments.
The Ombudsman has appointed two inspectors who regularly visit the relevant places of detention. The inspectors look at things like:
- Treatment e.g. any allegations of ill-treatment, the use of isolation, force or restraint
- Protection measures e.g. information for detainees, complaint processes, registers and record-keeping
- Material conditions e.g. facilities and living conditions
- Activities e.g. contact with family and the outside world, outdoor exercise, education and leisure activities
- Access to health care
- Staff e.g. staffing levels, conduct and training
The Ombudsman and inspectors have unrestricted access to the relevant places of detention. They also have unrestricted access to information about the number of detainees, the treatment of detainees, and the conditions of detention. And they are entitled to interview any person in a place of detention, or who can provide relevant information.
On the basis of the visits the Ombudsman makes recommendations to improve the conditions of detention and treatment of detainees.
The countries that have signed up to the OPCAT can expect to have their progress monitored by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Subcommittee, which has the same entitlements to information and access to places of detention as the NPMs, will be visiting New Zealand in due course.
The Ombudsman reports annually on the performance of these functions. The reports form part of the Ombudsman’s Annual Reports, which can be viewed here.
The annual reports of all NPMs are published collectively by the Human Rights Commission. You can view these reports and find other information about monitoring places of detention here.