HC Deb 10 July 2000 vol 353 cc431-2W
Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the means by which the parents of Cheryl Simone Hartman were informed of her death in Holloway prison on 18 June. [129262]

Mr. Boateng

I was very sorry to learn of the death of Cheryl Hartman at Holloway prison. Both I and Martin Narey, the Director General for the Prison Service, take deaths in custody very seriously indeed. I would like to pass my condolences on to Ms Hartman's family on behalf of myself and Martin Narey.

I was disappointed to learn that Ms Hartman's family had been notified of her death by telephone. The Prison Service is aware of the need for sensitivity in notifying the next-of-kin about the death of a loved one in prison custody. Accordingly, such notification should normally be done by a prison governor and the chaplain or, where there are geographical constraints, by the police.

There may be some exceptional occasions when contact by telephone is the most appropriate method of notification, but I would normally expect a personal call to be made. In this instance, I understand that the Duty Governor took the view that, to ensure that Ms Hartman's mother was notified quickly he should do so by telephone. In addition, he was also under the impression that the police would make personal contact, but in the event they did not.

I understand that Martin Narey has written to the family to apologise for the Prison Service's handling of this matter. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise to Ms Hartman's family for the way in which they were treated by the prison authorities.