HL Deb 03 February 2004 vol 656 cc94-5WA
Lord Lester of Herne Hill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What have been the recorded numbers of (a) attempted and (b) successful suicides by persons detained in custody in penal establishments in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, respectively, in each of the past 10 years [HL877]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

The information requested with respect to England and Wales and Northern Ireland, is provided in the table. For the information with respect to Scotland, I refer the noble Lord to the Scottish Executive.

England and Wales Northern Ireland
Year1 Number of self-inflicted deaths2 Number of incidents of self-harm3 Number of suicides4 Number of incidents of self-harm3
1994 61 3
1995 59 2
1996 64 3
1997 68 1
1998 83 3,207 1 89
1999 91 3,721 3 70
2000 81 5,227 3 90
2001 73 7,486 0 98
2002 95 9,745 1 146
2003 94 514,953 0 653
1 Financial years in respect of Northern Ireland.
2 The Prison Service in England and Wales employs the term "self-inflicted death" rather than "suicide". This includes all those deaths where it appears the person may have acted specifically to take his/her own life.
3 There is no definition of what constitutes "attempted suicide", therefore data recording incidents of "attempted suicide" are effectively subsumed within those for self-harm, which covers all acts of self-injury, however serious. The figures provided are number of incidents of self-harm, not number of individuals. Data on self-harm were not available in this format before 1998.
4 The Prison Service in Northern Ireland utilises verdicts from the coroner's court. They are still awaiting verdicts on deaths in custody in respect of one prisoner in 2000, one in 2001 and three in 2003.
5 To 31 November 2003 only. In December 2002 new procedures for reporting self-injury were introduced in prisons in England and Wales, therefore much of the increase in reported self-harm in 2003 may result from the change in reporting procedures rather than reflect an actual increase in incidence of self-harm
6 To 16 September 2003 only.

Reducing the number of self-inflicted deaths and instances of self-harm in prison establishments is a priority for Ministers and for the Prison Services of both England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

A proactive three-year programme to develop policies and practices to reduce prisoner suicide and manage self-harm in prisons in England and Wales began in April 2001. The programme has included the training and appointment of suicide prevention co-ordinators in the majority of prisons, the increased provision of prisoner peer support through schemes such as "Insiders" and Samaritan-led "Listeners", an investment of £21 million in six "Safer Local" prisons (Feltham, Leeds, Wandsworth, Winchester, Eastwood Park and Birmingham), and projects to develop safer prison design, including safer cells.

Over recent months a wide-ranging review of this programme has taken place in consultation with partner agencies such as the Youth Justice Board and outside organisations such as Samaritans and the Howard League, taking into account the evaluations of pilot projects and emerging research findings. This review will inform future suicide prevention strategy beyond April 2004.

A number of intervention strategies have also been introduced into establishments for people who self-harm. These include counselling, support groups, and specialised psychological interventions. A network of establishments has been set up to develop interventions, facilitate evaluation and share good practice, and guidance to staff on managing people who self-harm has been circulated to establishments.

In Northern Ireland, a review of policy and practices for dealing with prisoners at risk has recently been completed. This takes a holistic approach to providing the necessary support and care to prevent the individual harming him or herself. It includes an initial assessment on reception to prison, Samaritan services, Listener schemes, an anti-bullying policy and improved structures, systems and procedures. This policy is due to be implemented by the end of April 2004.