HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland was established on 1 January 1981, following the publication in 1979 of a report by the Committee of Inquiry into the United Kingdom Prison Services (The May Committee). This report recommended that there should be a system of inspection of the Prison Service distanced as far as may be practicable from the Prison Department. Subsequently, the post of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland was approved. The first Chief Inspector received his Royal Warrant of appointment on 29 October 1980.
The role of the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMCIP) was placed on a statutory basis by the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1980.
D A Philip Barry CBE (1980 – 1986); T B Buyers OBE (1986 – 1989); Alan H Bishop CB (1989 – 1994); Colonel Clive B Fairweather CBE OBE (1994 – 2002); The Very Rev Dr Andrew R C McLellan CBE (2002 – 2009); Brigadier the Hon Hugh B H E Monro CBE (2009 – 2013); David J R Strang QPM (2013 – 2018); Wendy Sinclair-Gieben (2018 to date).
The Public Services Reform (Inspection and Monitoring of Prisons) (Scotland) Order 2015 came into force on 31 August 2015 and from this date HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland assumed overall responsibility for the monitoring of prisons, which is carried out on a day to day basis by independent prison monitors.
The United Kingdom is a signatory of the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatement or Punishment (OPCAT). The UK National Preventative Mechanism was established in 2009 to strengthen the protection of people in detention through independent monitoring. HMIPS is one of 21 bodies that comprise the UKs National Preventative Mechanism (NPM), which has a duty to regularly monitor the treatment of detainees and the conditions in which they are held.
The Chief Inspector's main statutory responsibilities are:
- the regular inspection of prisons and court custody units
- responsibility for the monitoring of prisons
- the production of an Annual Report
- the inspection of the conditions and treatment of prisoners under escort.