HL Deb 20 January 1998 vol 584 cc236-7WA
Lord Avebury

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will order an inquiry into deaths in custody of the police, the Prison Service, the Armed Forces and the special hospitals, with a view to reducing the number of cases of unlawful, accidental or self-inflicted deaths. [HL9]

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Every death in custody—whether the person is in the custody of the police, the Prison Service, the Armed Forces or the high security hospitals—is treated very seriously and is fully investigated to establish, amongst other things, whether there are any lessons to be learnt to prevent further deaths. All deaths in police custody are notified to the Police Complaints Authority, which supervises the investigation of all deaths where there has been a formal complaint and any evidence of suspicious circumstances.

For any death in Prison Service custody, it is normal procedure for a full internal investigation to be conducted in confidence.

In the case of a death of a high security hospital patient, a full investigation is undertaken where there appears to be any possibility of untoward circumstances.

All deaths of members of the Armed Forces, whether in custody or not, are thoroughly investigated by a Board of Inquiry.

The circumstances of detention by the separate services differ significantly and the Government doubt that an inquiry covering all these services would produce useful results.

The Government are anxious to do everything possible to prevent deaths in custody. Current relevant reviews are:

  1. (i) A study by the Home Office Police Research Group of all deaths in police custody since 1990, which should assist in identifying common factors in the causes of deaths.
  2. (ii) A proposed thematic review by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons on suicides in prisons, reporting with recommendations to the Home Secretary.