ACT legislates for National Preventive Mechanism, strengthening oversight of places of detention

Australian Greens

The ACT Government has taken steps to further safeguard the rights of people in detention and ensure greater oversight of places of detention with the introduction of the Monitoring of Places of Detention Legislation Amendment Bill 2024 on 16 May 2024.

The legislation follows Australia’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), which requires each state to nominate a body to fulfil the role of a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM).

The Bill marks an important milestone for the ACT in its journey to implementing the requirements of OPCAT and is a key element to complement the ACT’s human rights framework.

The Bill provides for the establishment, functions, powers, privileges and immunities of the ACT NPM.

In January 2022, the Attorney-General designated the Human Rights Commission, the ACT Ombudsman and the Office of the Inspector of Correctional Services as the ACT NPM. These bodies will continue to work together to fulfill the functions of the NPM.

The NPM will conduct visits to custodial facilities in the ACT and other places of detention, interview people in detention and any other relevant people, inspect documents at places of detention and request documents and other information, and refer matters to investigative entities. The NPM will be able to report on its visits, and where relevant, provide advice and recommendations to Government with the view to strengthening human rights protections for people in detention and preventing torture and ill-treatment.

The new legislation includes important updates to the Inspector of Correctional Services Act 2017, enhancing oversight of the ACT’s detention centres. Key changes include:

  1. Updating the title: The title ‘Inspector of Correctional Services’ will change to ‘Custodial Inspector’ to reflect the full scope of the role encompassing oversight of both youth and adult detention.
  2. Improved processes: a range of amendments to create operational efficiencies for the Inspector and government agencies that interact with them.
  3. Whistleblower protections: Safeguards against reprisals have been strengthened for those who share information with the Custodial Inspector.

Extensive consultation was undertaken on the Bill to inform its key elements.

As stated by Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury:

“The Bill marks an important milestone for the ACT in its journey to implementing its international obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).”

“The National Preventive Mechanism can contribute significant value to the ACT’s oversight landscape, exercising its functions across all places where people are deprived of their liberty to ensure that human rights are upheld and torture and ill-treatment is being prevented.”

As stated by Minister for Corrections and Justice Health Emma Davidson:

“Everyone deserves to be treated as a human. It is what makes us feel connected to ourselves, our community and our environment. These measures will better protect people from cruel or degrading treatment so people in places of detention are treated as humans and given their best trajectory for rehabilitation and less likely to reoffend once they return to the community.”

/Public Release. View in full here.