HL Deb 22 October 2002 vol 639 cc89-90WA
Lord Ashley of Stoke

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many alleged suicides there were in each regiment and barracks in the Army for the past two years, and [HL5831]

Whether they will investigate if bullying was a factor in any alleged suicide in the Army, and [HL5832]

What is the investigatory procedure that is carried out when a non-natural death occurs in the Army, and [HL5833]

Whether they will ensure that those regiments and barracks with the highest number of suicides a year are visited by independent investigators, and that an annual report is made to Parliament on suicides in the Army, and [HL5834]

Whether they will give a commitment that every non-natural death in the Army will immediately be fully investigated and, in all circumstances, the findings will be given to the family without delay, and [HL5835]

Whether they will appoint an ombudsman to whom all suicides and allegations of bullying in the army could be referred. [HL5836]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach)

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, cause of death can only be determined by Her Majesty's coroner and in Scotland by the Procurator Fiscal. Consequently, the Ministry of Defence's official suicide statistics only include those where a suicide verdict has been awarded by a coroner and do not include cases awaiting coroners' inquests or those where other verdicts have been awarded. There were nine suicides of Army personnel in 2000 and five in 2001. The regiments and locations, at time of death, of these personnel are shown in the table below.

Year Regiment Location
2000 Intelligence Corps Warrington
Cheshire Regiment Newport
Blues and Royals Windsor
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Cyprus
Royal Artillery Scunthorpe
Royal Logistics Corps Krefeld, Germany
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Colchester
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Ashington
Staffordshire Regiment Cyprus
2001 Scots Dragoon Guards Cumbria
Devonshire and Dorset Regiment Hounslow
Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire Strensall
Duke of Wellington's Regiment Osnabruck, Germany
Royal Corps of Signals Haverfordwest

Bullying and harassment of any kind will not be tolerated in the Army and any such allegations will be thoroughly investigated, irrespective as to whether such behaviour was allegedly linked to a non-natural death or not. If such allegations are proven, appropriate action will be taken against those involved.

All non-natural deaths in the Army are fully investigated. Primacy for such investigations lies with the local civilian police force, which would usually be supported by the appropriate service police authority or Ministry of Defence police and other agencies as required. Where a death occurs overseas, the military authorities act in accordance with local legal requirements. Families are kept informed of developments either through the civilian police or Army authorities. They are also entitled to receive, on request, a copy of the board of inquiry report into a death, which will be forwarded as soon as possible after completion, subject to any minimum security and disclosure requirements.

The Ministry of Defence currently has no plans to make an annual report to Parliament on suicides in the Army or to appoint an ombudsman to whom all allegations of suicide and bullying could be referred.