Death in Custody
Since the Office took on the role in September 2005 of investigating deaths in prison custody in Northern Ireland, there have been 43 deaths.
In all our Death in Custody investigations care and attention is paid, among other things, to:
- delivering a professional investigation
- identifying any learning points for the Prison Service
- answering family concerns and liaising with the family
- meeting the needs of the Coroner
The unexpected death of a loved one in prison is naturally a very sad event. Some organisations can help loved ones by providing emotional support and counselling. Further information can be found at the Suicide Awareness and Support Group and Samaritans websites.
Since her appointment as Prisoner Ombudsman, Pauline McCabe, has published all Death in Custody investigations reports on this website.
In February 2011, in her interim report, ‘Review of the Northern Ireland Prison Service’, Dame Anne Owers said that “An early task for the change management team will be to rationalise and prioritise the outstanding recommendations from the various external reviews and monitoring bodies. …. There should therefore be an early review of the recommendations, discarding those that are no longer relevant or are time expired, brigading into topic areas those that remain, identifying dependencies within the recommendations and with the change programme, and prioritising and timetabling action over a period of time. Inspectorates and monitors in return will expect real and measurable outcomes.”
The Prison Service and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) are currently engaged in two programmes of work with the aim of achieving significant change in the Northern Ireland Prison Service. These are the Strategic Efficiency and Effective (SEE) Programme and the SEHSCT’s Service Improvement Boards.
In light of Anne Owers comments, and in order to support the development of a more strategic and joined up approach to service development, the Prisoner Ombudsman has decided not to make recommendations in future death in custody investigation reports. Instead issues of concern related to service delivery identified during the course of the investigation will be identified and the Prison Service and SEHSCT will be asked to address these concerns fully as part of the above programmes for change.
The Prisoner Ombudsman has also asked the Prison Service and SEHSCT to ensure that recommendations from previous death in custody investigation reports are captured as part of these programmes for change.