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Prison policy of filming forced strip searches breaches ECHR

On 15th March 2016, Mr Justice Treacy allowed a judicial review which challenged the Prison Service Policy that permits forced strip searches to be recorded and retained for a period of six years. 

Rule 16 of the Prison and Young Offenders’ Centre Rules (NI) 1996 permits forcible searching where prisoners refuse to provide consent.  However, prisoners must not be required to undress in the sight of another prisoner or any person other than the officers conducting the search.

After refusing to provide consent, the applicant had been subjected to a forced strip search which was filmed.  The Prison Service stated that the rationale behind the policy of recording planned use of force incidents is to keep a record to safeguard prisoners and staff involved should any subsequent complaints or allegations be made.  Recording does not take place of any images deemed to be inappropriate and unnecessary.

The applicant alleged that this policy was incompatible with his rights under Article 8 of the ECHR because it interfered with his right to respect for private and family life in a disproportionate way.  Mr Justice Treacy stated that:

In the absence of any proper basis in domestic law the recording of the search and its retention and the policy under which it was carried out are not ‘in accordance with law’ and therefore not a justified interference with the applicant’s Article 8 rights.’

Read summary of the judgment here.

ECHR Art. 8, Local Developments, Prisoners' Rights