The applicant, Mr. Peers, was detained on remand in prison. He shared a very small cell with another prisoner. There was an Asian-type toilet in the cell. In addition to lack of walking space, poor lighting and ventilation, the Asian-type toilet in the cell did not have a screen or curtain separating the toilet from the living space. The toilet would sometimes flush and sometimes not.
Mr. Peers complained that the conditions of his detention amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the Convention.
The Court recalled that, according to its case-law, ill-treatment must attain a minimum level of severity if it is to fall within the scope of Article 3. The assessment of this minimum level of severity is relative; it depends on all the circumstances of the case, such as the duration of the treatment, its physical and mental effects and, in some cases, the sex, age and state of health of the victim.
In considering whether a treatment is “degrading”, the Court must determine whether its object is to humiliate and debase the person concerned and whether, as far as the consequences are concerned, it adversely affected his or her personality in a manner incompatible with Article 3. The Court observed that Mr. Peers also had to use the toilet in the presence of another inmate and be present while the toilet was being used by his cell-mate.
Taking into account the other conditions in the cell, the Court concluded that the conditions complained of diminished the applicant’s human dignity and aroused in him feelings of anguish and inferiority capable of humiliating and debasing him and possibly breaking his physical or moral resistance. Therefore the applicant had been subject to degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the Convention.