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Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Malta


Strasbourg, 25.10.2016 – The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today the report on its most recent visit to Malta from 3 to 10 September 2015, together with the response of the Maltese authorities.

The report focuses on the treatment of persons in police custody and the safeguards afforded to them, the situation at Corradino Correctional Facility and at Mount Carmel Psychiatric Hospital, as well as the treatment of persons in two facilities for immigration detention. It also examines the situation in three social care homes for young persons.

Information gathered during the visit indicated that persons apprehended by the police were generally treated correctly, and no allegations of ill-treatment were received. Nevertheless, safeguards against potential ill-treatment need to operate more effectively. In the report, the CPT noted positively that very few persons were held in immigration detention at the time of the visit. It also states that the reduction in the numbers of persons detained represents an opportunity for the Maltese authorities to review the current approach towards immigration detention to ensure that all persons are held in decent conditions.  The CPT recommends, inter alia, that the living conditions at Safi Barracks should be improved, more activities should be offered to those persons detained longer than a few days and that detained persons should be addressed by their name and not by a number.

At Corradino Correctional Facility (CCF), the CPT observed generally good relations between staff and inmates and hardly any allegations of ill-treatment by prison staff of prisoners were received. The CCF was accommodating several transgender inmates at the time of the visit, and the CPT considers that they should either be accommodated in the prison section of the respective gender with which they self-identify or, if exceptionally necessary for security or other reasons, in a separate section of the prison. As regards material conditions, much of the prison offered generally poor living conditions for the inmates, including unscreened and poorly-functioning toilets and no direct access to drinking water. The situation of life-sentenced prisoners was considered not good; they were offered limited access to activities, no sentence plan and no access to parole. The CPT reiterates that the policy towards life-sentenced prisoners must be re-considered, notably to afford life-sentenced prisoners the possibility to apply for conditional release. As regards the separate Young Offenders Unit of Rehabilitation Services, the atmosphere was generally good. However, there was no specifically tailored regime for juveniles with a full programme of purposeful out-of-cell activities.

The report states that the male and female Forensic Psychiatric Units at Mount Carmel Hospital were not being properly managed, which impacted negatively on the care provided to the patients. The CPT recommends that a complete review of the purpose and functioning of the forensic units be undertaken, that the Ministry of Health be tasked with the oversight of the forensic units and that the units should be brought under the management of Mount Carmel Hospital. Moreover, there is a need to invest in the recruitment and training of qualified nursing staff to perform all the duties required of a forensic psychiatric service. Overall, the CPT found that the atmosphere and regime were extremely carceral and un-therapeutic; the material conditions for the patients were poor and there were no individualised care plans. Further, on the male Unit, the use of means of restraint was being applied by prison officers, occasionally from the Special Response Team, instead of healthcare staff and the recording of such measures was inadequate.
 
At Mount Carmel Psychiatric Hospital and Gozo General Hospital, relaxed staff-patient relations and a generally caring approach by staff were observed.  The report is, however, critical of the Maximum Secure Unit, both as regards the material conditions and the treatment provided, and recommends that the unit be relocated to a place where a therapeutic living environment can be provided. The CPT also raised concerns about the practice of placing children exhibiting challenging behaviour too readily in a closed psychiatric facility and the placement of children on adult wards.

The main findings of the CPT are set out in the Executive Summary of the report.

In their response, the Maltese authorities address the various issues raised in the CPT’s report. They underline that improvements are being made to the operation of many of the safeguards surrounding police custody and refurbishment work is underway to improve conditions in many of the police custody facilities. Equally, action is also being taken to address the deficiencies raised by the CPT concerning immigration detention. As regards the CCF, the authorities notably underlined that a new policy for transgender inmates has been launched and that transgender prisoners will be assigned to the division that matches the gender on their legal documents. The response also highlights, inter alia, various changes underway to the management structure and infrastructure (refurbishment works). Regarding the Forensic Psychiatric Units at Mount Carmel Hospital, there are ongoing discussions between the Ministries of Health and Home Affairs on how to improve the functioning and oversight of these Units. In respect of Mount Carmel Psychiatric Hospital, the authorities responded positively to recommendations to improve the living conditions (e.g. plans for a new Acute Psychiatry Unit), to invest in staff resources and to strengthen legal safeguards for psychiatric patients.     

The CPT’s report and the response of the Government of Malta have been made public at the request of the Maltese authorities and are available on the Committee’s website: http://www.cpt.coe.int.


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