Report No. 273
E. Implementation of CAT in various Countries
(i) United Kingdom
2.19 The common law prohibited torture, but, the Privy Council continued to issue torture warrants until Felton's case in 1628 and such practice was formally abolished only in 1640 at the time of Long Parliament. In Scotland, torture was prohibited by section 5 of the Treason Act 1708. 26
2.20 Section 134 of Criminal Justice Act, 1988 makes it an offence for any public official to 'intentionally inflict severe pain or suffering on another in the performance .., of his official duties'. This provision was introduced to honour the UK's commitments under the 1984 Convention (CAT).27
2.21 Under international law, torture is not only prohibited under such instruments as Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Torture Convention, but it has become recognised as jus cogens, a peremptory norm of international law that binds all states whether they have signed instruments such as the Torture Convention or not28. The prohibition against torture under Article 3 ECHR is also one of the few rights that cannot be derogated from in a state of emergency under Article 15.
2.22 The UK Government maintained that it would never return someone to a country where they face a risk of torture. The Human Rights Act 1998 is regularly relied upon in extradition and deportation cases to challenge the government's assessment of whether a risk of illtreatment exists.29