November 27, 2020

HM Cayman Islands Prison Service, Police Custody And Court Cells: performing poorly

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YxMuCustodial facilities on the Cayman Islands were in poor condition and required significant investment, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing a report on an inspection of the two island jails, police custody cells and court cells.

The Cayman Islands are a self-governing British Overseas Territory comprising three islands in the Caribbean.  HM Inspectorate of Prisons was invited by the Governor of the islands, responsible for internal security, to inspect custodial facilities.

There are two prisons located on Grand Cayman. HMP Northward holds around 200 men of varying age, status and category. Conditions were decrepit, meaningful accountably almost non-existent, and work to deliver decent standards and ensure people are prepared for a successful return to society was severely lacking.

Northward prisonHMP Fairbanks is smaller and held just four women at the time of its inspection. Conditions at Fairbanks were marginally better but still very poor. The almost one-to-one nature of staff-prisoners numbers meant that women were treated much better and were safer, but inspectors were not assured this would remain the case if there was a significant increase in numbers.

Inspectors also visited the Royal Cayman Island Police Service custody suites at George Town, West Bay and Bodden Town as well as court cells in George Town. The condition of the police cells was extremely poor and systems to support improvements were almost completely lacking.

HM prison NorthwardFacilities at the court custody facility at George Town were also poor. Of particular concern was the lack of effective joint working between agencies with responsibilities in the suite.

Nick Hardwick said:

“What we found was troubling and concerning, particularly given that the prisons operated in the name of Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Whatever one’s view of the role of imprisonment, most people would expect prisons to hold prisoners safely and decently, and to ensure prisoners leave as better people than when they came in. Northward and Fairbanks fall well short of this standard.

“Urgent improvements need to be made to custody facilities operated by both the Royal Cayman Island Police Service and court services in Cayman. It is difficult to see how this will be achieved without significant investment and a radical review of governance structures.

“The report’s findings confirm my view that all custodial facilities need to be subject to regular independent inspection to ensure even the most basic human rights standards are upheld and meaningful accountability maintained. The absence of such arrangements in the Cayman Islands was a significant factor in the very poor conditions we found.”

NOTE: A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.

This announced inspection was carried out from 20-27 July 2012.

The Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory, are not a signatory in their own right to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). Areas of detention on the islands are not subject to regular independent monitoring. HM Inspectorate of Prisons was invited by the Governor of the Islands to undertake inspections of both police and court custody consistent with our inspections in England and Wales.


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