Deaths in custody lessons are being ignored, says charity
originally by: The Guardian
published: 1 October 2012
Lessons learned from deaths in police and prison custody are being repeatedly ignored or lost because there is no official body to enforce them, according to a charity that supports bereaved families at inquests.
Many coroners’ rule 43 reports, designed to prevent accidents and save lives, have negligible impact because there is no authority charged with ensuring compliance, the organisation Inquest has warned.
Its report is launched as deaths in English and Welsh prisons are on an upward trend – having dipped to 155 in 2006, the annual number of fatalities climbed to 189 last year.
Coincidentally, the ancient office of coroner, which dates to the Norman conquest, is undergoing an overhaul with the appointment this summer of the first chief coroner, Judge Peter Thornton QC.
Thornton, who presided over the inquest last year into the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in 2009, has suggested developing “cadres” of investigators specialising in military and custody fatalities. He attended the launch of Inquest’s report.
The study, Learning from Death in Custody Inquests, is backed by the former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham who told the Guardian: “For years, large numbers of people have been frustrated and worried by the fact that nothing which has been learned, either good or bad, appears to have been used to prevent further [deaths].
I would have hoped the government would be leading this from the top down [but it appears to be] bubbling up from practitioners.”