31 July 2020

INQUEST has submitted evidence to the inquiry by Joint Committee on Human Rights which is looking into the human rights implications of the government's response to COVID-19. 

We flagged our concerns that the government's response to COVID-19 has in many ways failed to meet its obligations under the Human Rights Act.

COVID-19 has laid bare pre-existing flaws in the detention system and also the way the State protects those in society at greatest risk of health inequalities, racism and discrimination.


In our submission, we expose the retrogressive steps taken across detention settings justified by the need to contain the spread of COVID-19, such as :

  • the introduction of mass solitary confinement in prisons
  • the authorisation of the use of PAVA in prisons
  • the potential increased reliance on seclusion and restraint in mental health and learning disability settings
  • increased and disproportionate use of stop and search, fines and use of Taser by police. 

Government and detention authorities must be held to account to ensure such measures do not become standard practice. Yet our evidence points to the limitations of the current oversight by monitoring bodies tasked with preventing ill treatment.

As the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture has acknowledged, across detention settings the pandemic has “hit hardest” in areas where its previous recommendations have not been implemented.

Finally, we flag our concern that inquests are not being opened into COVID-related deaths and the importance of a public inquiry to probe legitimate questions about whether COVID-related deaths could have been prevented.

Visit the COVID-19 campaign page for further information and resources.