Investigations of deaths within the Ombudsman’s remit

Prisons and Courts Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 29th March 2017.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 6 and 7 stand part.

Photo of Sam Gyimah Sam Gyimah The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Clauses 5 and 6 set out which deaths fall within the ombudsman’s remit for investigation. They should be read in conjunction with clause 20, which sets out which institutions are in scope. Clause 5 also requires the ombudsman to investigate any death of a person who at the time of their death was detained or resident in an institution within its remit. Clause 6 provides the ombudsman with a discretion to investigate deaths that occur when the person is no longer detained or resident in a relevant institution or immigration detention facility, or subject to immigration escort arrangements.

If the ombudsman is aware of the death of a person who has recently ceased to be detained in a place that is within his remit and has a reason to believe the person’s death may be connected with their detention, clause 6 allows him to investigate the death. The ombudsman will determine the extent of the investigation required according to the circumstances of the death. For example, a death that is clearly the result of natural causes may require less investigation than an apparently self-inflicted death.

Clause 7 refers to the position of the Lord Advocate, who leads the system of criminal prosecutions and the investigation of deaths in Scotland. It states that the Lord Advocate’s role as head of the system of investigation of deaths in Scotland is not affected by putting the ombudsman into legislation. That is relevant, because the ombudsman has a duty to investigate the deaths of those detained in immigration detention facilities or under immigration escort arrangements in Scotland. It is intended that the ombudsman will enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Lord Advocate to provide a clear framework for both officers to discharge their independent functions effectively.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 6 and 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8