OPCAT - United Kingdom National Preventive Mechanism (UK NPM)

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is an international human rights treaty designed to strengthen protection for people deprived of their liberty. It recognises that such people are particularly vulnerable and aims to prevent their ill-treatment by establishing a system of visits or inspections to all places of detention. The UK ratified the OPCAT in December 2003

The OPCAT requires state party governments to establish a "National Preventive Mechanism" (NPM). The NPM is a list of bodies that carry out unannounced inspection visits and have unrestricted access to places of detention to investigate the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. The UK Government decided this would be fulfilled by the collective action of existing statutory inspection bodies rather than setting up a new body.

On 31 March 2009 the Ministry of Justice published a written ministerial statement designating 18 visiting or inspecting bodies who visit places of detention such as prisons, police custody, immigration detention centres, children's secure accommodation and mental health institutions.

The 18 bodies which were designated as part of the UK NPM are:

England and Wales

HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP)
Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB)
Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA)
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC)
Care Quality Commission (CQC)
Healthcare Inspectorate of Wales (HIW)
Children's Commissioner for England (CCE)
Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW)
Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED)


HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS)
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS)
Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC)
Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWCS)
The Care Commission (CC)

Northern Ireland

Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB)
Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI)
Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA)
NI Policing Board Independent Custody Visiting Scheme (NIPBICVS)

Each year, the NPM will publish a report of its activities. These reports can be found below.

NPM Annual Reports

National Preventative Mechanism
UK National Preventative Mechanism Annual Report 2016-17

Download PDF

National Preventative Mechanism
UK National Preventative Mechanism Annual Report 2015-16

Download PDF