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Terminally Ill Prisoners

Volume 98: debated on Wednesday 4 June 1986

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) by what means a reminder will be given to prison medical officers of the need to give urgent and sympathetic consideration to cases of prisoners who are terminally ill and who seek early release on that ground;(2) what was the frequency of review of first refusals of release to terminally ill patients seeking release on the grounds of their illness; and how frequent are the reviews now that such frequency has been increased;(3) what was the frequency of review where there was a need for further information regarding terminally ill patients seeking release on the grounds of their illness and how frequent the reviews are now that such frequency has increased;(4) by whom additional guidance will be given to prison medical officers in respect of the treatment of terminally ill patients and when; and whether he will place a copy in the Library;(5) when he proposes undertaking a sample study of cases of all seriously ill prisoners, in order to check that merit worthy cases are not overlooked; by whom such sample study will be carried out and where; when he expects the results of that sample study to be available; and whether he will place a copy thereof in the Library;(6) who is to conduct a study of cases to give him a better basis for whether further changes may be needed in the arrangements for deciding whether to grant early release to terminally ill prisoners; when such a study will be carried out; when he expects its findings to be completed; and whether he will then place a copy of the results thereof in the Library.

The director of Prison Medical Services proposes to write to all prison medical officers in charge of medical arrangements at Prison Department establishments in England and Wales. The letter will remind medical officers of the need to give urgent and sympathetic consideration to cases of prisoners thought to be terminally ill, and will give further guidance on the consideration and reporting of these cases. A copy of the letter will be placed in the Library.Officials dealing with such cases in the criminal department have been reminded both orally and in writing by their line managers of the need to take particular and urgent care in the consideration of cases of prisoners whose illnesses may mean that their early release by special remission under the royal prerogative of mercy is justified.There is and can be no fixed period for review of decisions not to recommend special remission. The period of review must be determined by the circumstances of each case. All officials concerned with these cases have been instructed to ensure that no undue delay in reviewing cases is allowed to occur.We intend to start a monitoring exercise relating to cases of seriously ill prisoners this month. Prison medical officers are required by the prison standing orders to submit reports on seriously ill prisoners to the governor. For a limited period they will be asked to send copies of such reports to the directorate of Prison Medical Services and to the criminal department which will consider whether the cases thus presented call for consideration of the grant of special remission. We expect to be able to make the results of this exercise known to the hon. and learned Member and the House later this year.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many representations he has received from hon. Members concerning the failure to release prisoners alleged to be suffering from terminal illnesses, during each of the last sever, years for which records are available.

Records of such representations are not kept in a form which enables precise information to be provided without disproportionate cost. However, I can say that apart from the hon. and learned Member's own, I can recall representations on this matter from only one hon. Member in the last three years.