Police treatment of menstruating women and girls in the cells likely to be unlawful

The Independent Custody Visitors Association (“ICVA”) has called on the Home Secretary to address ongoing failures by police forces across England and Wales to ensure that women and girls in police custody have proper access to sanitary protection.  


The ICVA has written to Amber Rudd MP and the Minister for Women and Equalities, Justine Greening MP, to ask that an immediate review of police practice is undertaken, consistent with the public sector equality duty, and that specific protection is provided for menstruating women in Code C to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the statutory Code of Practice governing the treatment of police detainees.


ICVA is represented by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Angela Patrick, who have produced a legal opinion, provided to the Home Secretary and today published by the ICVA. 


The legal opinion makes clear that leaving women and girls in police cells without access to a pad or a tampon will violate women’s right to be treated with dignity, protected by the Human Rights Act 1998 (Articles 8 and 14).  In some cases, it may amount to degrading treatment (prohibited by Article 3).  Forces are failing to follow their own statutory guidance, inconsistent with their public law duties.  A continuing failure to treat women with equal respect may violate the public sector equality duty (Section 149, Equality Act 2010).  The Home Secretary and individual forces risk judicial review and some women may have a right to compensation.


Copies of the ICVA Press Pack are available, here. 


Coverage of the ICVA’s request to the Home Secretary is available from Buzzfeed, the BBC and the Guardian.


For more information, please contact Eileen Donaghey, on e.donaghey@doughtystreet.co.uk or 0207 404 1313 .  The legal opinion by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Angela Patrick for the ICVA is available by request.

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