Deaths in Custody

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th November 1994.

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Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe , Bradford South 12:00 am, 24th November 1994

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he is taking to ensure that deaths in custody from unnatural causes are significantly reduced.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I am concerned about the matter, and we recently issued revised guidance to governors.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe , Bradford South

When will the prison service change its procedures to allow the full facts of internal inquiries to be made available to the families of people who have died in prison? Are there any moves to allow that under way?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I think I know which case is concerning the hon. Gentleman. His distinguished predecessor, the late Bob Cryer, raised the matter with the Prison Service. Difficulties are involved in making internal inquiry reports publicly available because of security and other considerations. In view of the hon. Gentleman's further representations, however, I will discuss the matter with the Director General of the Prison Service. I will write to the hon. Gentleman as soon as I have done so.

Photo of Mrs Jill Knight Mrs Jill Knight , Birmingham, Edgbaston

Are not many people in custody drug addicts who have already, by their own actions, increased their risk of death or ill health?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

It is certainly true that a number of prisoners have a history of drug abuse; it is also true that some prison suicides have been involved in drug abuse. It is important that we identify those who may be at risk at an early stage, when they are admitted to prison, and ensure that proper procedures are in place to prevent the recurrence of recent tragedies.