HC Deb 24 July 1990 vol 177 cc134-5W
Mr. Ashley

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners who committed suicide in the last decade underwent psychiatric treatment or assessment before entering custody.

Mr. Waddington

The information is not available. Prison medical officers would normally be aware of any previous psychiatric treatment or assessment only if the inmate chose to disclose the details at interview on reception. The only totally reliable source of information would be any confidential report on an inmate's psychiatric condition prepared by a consultant psychiatrist at the request of the court.

Mr. Alan Williams

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what suicide prevention procedure is recommended for Her Majesty's prisons; what changes in standing orders have been made or are proposed to be made to accommodate this; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Waddington

Circular instruction 20/1989, a copy of which is in the Library, describes the range of measures taken by the prison service in England and Wales to try to prevent suicide and self-injury among prisoners. The main elements are systematic screening and assessment; suitable location and supervision; sympathetic and supportive contact with staff and others; reducing the opportunities for suicide by physical prevention measures; and ensuring staff awareness.

The prison service is constantly looking to improve its suicide prevention strategy. Among present initiatives are: a planned trial of the use of closed circuit television; the continuation of the "family ties" programme, including the installation of cardphones in category C establishments, a proposed experiment at Winchester prison in the use of cardphones by remand prisoners and a pilot scheme to reduce routine censorship in category B—non-dispersal—establishments; and encouraging the increasing involvement of the Samaritans.

In addition, Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons has been asked to review the effectiveness of the prison service's policy and procedures for the prevention of suicide and self-harm, with particular reference to the risks posed by mentally disturbed prisoners. Judge Tumin is expected to report in the autumn.