Mark Pritchard – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Home Office

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Mark Pritchard on 2016-03-21.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to reduce the number of non-natural deaths (a) in police custody and (b) on the prison estate.

Mike Penning

Every death in police custody and on the prison estate is a tragedy and this is a priority area for the Government.

The Ministerial Council for Deaths in Custody looks at this issue across Government. The Council considers what lessons can be learnt following a death in custody and the development of a clear and robust legislative and policy framework to help prevent deaths in any state custody setting.

The Home Secretary announced a major review into deaths in police custody on 23 July. This review is being led by Dame Elish Angiolini who is working closely with victims, families and the police. At its heart will be the experience of the families of those who have died in custody. The review is scheduled to report in the summer of 2016. My officials also work closely with police forces, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the National Offender Management Service and other partners to take action to minimise the risks to detainees and prevent deaths from occurring in custody environments. Police forces are required to refer all matters concerning deaths in police custody to the Independent Police Complaints Commission who will decide whether the matter should be investigated and, if so, what form that investigation should take.

All deaths in prison are subject to a police investigation, an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) and a Coroner’s inquest. The Ministry of Justice works hard to learn lessons from each death, and has accepted and acted on the vast majority of recommendations from recent investigations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

All prisons are required to have procedures in place to identify, manage and support people who are at risk of harm to themselves, and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has put in place additional resources to undertake this safer custody work.

Health partners are engaged in supporting all prisoners’ physical and mental health and wellbeing, and play an important role in the identification and management of prisoners at risk of self-harm and suicide.

On 17 December 2015 the Government published its response to the Harris Review into the deaths in custody of young adults and reaffirmed its commitment to reducing the levels of self-harm and self-inflicted deaths in custody.

NOMS has an extensive programme of work aimed at preventing self-inflicted deaths and reducing levels of self-harm.