HC Deb 26 February 2002 vol 380 cc1241-2W
Mr. Gerrard

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy in relation to all deaths in police custody, prisons and immigration detention centres, to provide the family of the deceased person with a copy of any investigation carried out into his or her death. [36948]

Mr. Denham

The Government recognise the frustration and sadness that can be caused through any lack of communication and information in these cases.

Police investigating officers' reports form a class which the courts have ruled is entitled to public interest immunity.

Current Home Office guidance to the police on pre-inquest disclosure states that disclosure of the investigating officer's report will not normally be expected to form part of the pre-inquest disclosure. That does not mean, however, that it is impossible for such a report to be disclosed where a chief officer considers that it would be right to do so".

There is no existing legal obligation on the police to make such a disclosure unless directed to do so by a court. However, the Police Reform Bill currently before Parliament includes a presumption in favour of the disclosure of information. The Bill expressly allows this duty to be fulfilled through the provision of a copy of the investigation report subject to a statutory test that will ensure no information that has the potential for causing harm is released.

Since 1999 the Prison Service has operated a policy of disclosure of investigation reports into deaths in prison custody to the family of the deceased. The Immigration Service would also disclose their investigation reports into deaths in immigration detention centres to the family of the deceased.