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A person should not be kept naked in a police prison

10.3.2010

Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja points out that a person must not be kept naked in a police prison. Clothing or kit with which a person can cover him- or herself and which cannot be used the purpose of self-destruction must be available.

Stripping naked

The complainant had been detained on suspicion of aggravated drink driving and taken to the police prison in Seinäjoki. In his cell he had made a noose from his shirt and tied it to a ventilation vent. To thwart his self-destructive intentions, he had been stripped naked. He was given a blanket 25 minutes later, having been naked without any kind of cover or clothing for all that time.

Earlier positions adopted in oversight of legality

Positions on the question of the clothing with which a self-destructive mental patient or prisoner are provided when they are in isolation have often been adopted in oversight of legislation.

In psychiatric health care the Ombudsman has adopted the point of departure that treatment respecting human dignity as well as good medical treatment and health care demand that persons who are isolated be clothed adequately and humanely.

The requirement in prison is that inmates must be given a garment, which cannot be used for self-destruction, to cover themselves. Also available is the so-called restraint jacket.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has intervened, for example in its report on Greece, in the question of isolation practices. It has pointed out that it is not permissible that prisoners in a psychiatric prison hospital are stripped of clothing and left in an isolation cell naked to prevent self-destructive behaviour. Clothing suiting the situation must be available.

Measures

The Constitution and the so-called Police Cells Act - The Act on the Treatment of Persons in Police Custody - do not, in the view of the Ombudsman, permit a situation in which a person in custody has to remain naked in a detention cell and without anything available to cover him- or herself.

The Deputy-Ombudsman took the view that clothing which cannot be used for self-destruction or other kit with which a detained person can cover him- or herself must be available in police detention facilities. The Deputy-Ombudsman informed the National Police Board and the Etelä-Pohjanmaa police service of his opinion.

Additional information will be provided by Legal Adviser Mikko Eteläpää, tel. +358 (0)9 4321.