Deaths in custody lessons are being ignored, says charity

Blakehurst prisonoriginally 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.”

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4WardEver UK is a community collective providing news and information sharing services for our readers and members. We support the call for police, penal and mental health reforms in the UK and internationally. “Keep Informed – Keep up the Struggle” Our activities and on-line services are managed by a small dedicated team of volunteers: Established in 2005.

Posted on 02/10/2012, in In The News, Prison News. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Mike Guilfoyle

    This report is a salutary reminder of the importance of continuing to campaign for better recognition of the shortcomings in the care and support of many of those vulnerable individuals who find themselves in custody.

    An equally shocking report-Deaths on Probation commissioned by the Howard League for Penal Reform published a week ago calls for an ‘ ethics of care’ to given greater priority in Probation Trust’s. The centenary AGM of Napo (Probation Union) is taking place this week. I will remember Pauline with colleagues from Greater London branch when we bring to mind friends/colleagues who have died.

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