Scottish Prison Service (Fatal Accident Inquiry Determination)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government what action the Scottish Prison Service has taken in response to the determination of the fatal accident inquiry into the death of Allan Marshall at HMP Edinburgh. (S5T-01746)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

First and foremost, I express my condolences to Allan Marshall's family. Any death in our care is a tragedy. I am determined that our justice system continues to learn and improve so that we can avoid such tragedies from happening again in the future.

In his determination, Sheriff Liddle makes 13 recommendations about steps that he considers might realistically prevent deaths in similar circumstances in the future. The SPS is rightly reflecting on the recommendations in detail and, in line with provisions in the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Act 2016, will provide a full response to all the recommendations within eight weeks.

The SPS has also confirmed that a range of actions were taken immediately following the incident, including additional training for staff.

The SPS has now established a working group to address the sheriff’s specific recommendations, in particular with reference to control and restraint and the understanding of medical conditions that may be triggered or indeed exacerbated by the use of restraint. The SPS will seek additional external expert advice as part of the review

I have been clear that lessons must be learned and to ensure independent oversight, I have written to Her Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons asking her formally to provide external assurance to the SPS’s actions following the FAI recommendations, in conjunction with relevant independent experts, as required.

The SPS met members of Mr Marshall’s family yesterday and I will also meet them to discuss their concerns and the actions being taken in response to this very tragic incident.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

I want to express my condolences to Allan Marshall’s family, and I sincerely hope that lessons will be learned from this tragic case. One of Sheriff Liddle’s recommendations refers to a review of control and restraint. Will the cabinet secretary outline what work will be carried out by the SPS to ensure that all staff are fully trained in that respect?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I will be brief, because I think that I made reference to that in my previous answer. Immediately after the incident, some work was undertaken in relation to the training involving control and restraint, but the short-life working group will look at the processes around control and restraint. The SPS has recognised that external expert advice should be fed into that but, to give further reassurance, I have also asked HM inspectorate of prisons for Scotland to give independent external oversight to that process. That will clearly be an issue of interest for many—first and foremost, for Mr Marshall’s family, but more widely, no doubt, for the Parliament. I will endeavour to keep the Parliament up to date in the most appropriate way possible.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary ensure that the Justice Committee is updated on any further developments?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Yes. I will make sure that that is done through the committee, and if members who are not on the Justice Committee have an interest, I will endeavour to keep them updated also.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

Rona Mackay rightly identified that the training and qualifications of prison officers are clearly of great import. The Scottish National Party’s 2017 programme for government promised a prison officer professionalisation programme. Has that been delivered?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The reason why that professionalisation programme has not come to fruition is that the members rejected it in a ballot. I do not think that Liam Kerr would expect us to override the members’ concerns when that was put to ballot. There is still an outstanding question about professionalisation. The SPS is in continued conversation with the Prison Officers Association about professionalisation but, of course, we have to listen to the members and take them, prison officers and others with us.

Notwithstanding that, the work that the short-life working group is doing will, we hope, bring a level of confidence to particular training on control and restraint that will give the public the confidence that they need.

The Presiding Officer:

Again, I recognise the level of political interest in the subject. I apologise to James Kelly, John Finnie and Liam McArthur, as there is simply not enough time this afternoon for everything that we want to raise. That concludes topical questions.