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Deaths in Custody Suites

Volume 616: debated on Tuesday 1 November 2016

2. How many deaths have occurred in (a) custody suites operated by G4S and (b) other custody suites in the last three years. (906938)

Very vulnerable people are held in custody suites, and many have committed suicide. That translates into the presence of such people in prisons, where, as the Secretary of State has just acknowledged, there have been more deaths in custody than there have been for many years. More women are killing themselves than at any time since the Corston report. When we know what has gone wrong from the reports of coroners’ courts or the Corston report, which have given us real advice on what ought to happen, why is it not happening? Has the Minister read those coroners’ reports?

All deaths in custody are a tragedy. They are fully investigated by the independent prisons and probation ombudsman and are subject to coroners’ inquests. As the Secretary of State pointed out, a number of women in prison have been victims of crime themselves and are incredibly vulnerable members of society. As well as modernising the women’s prison estate, we are looking into diversion tactics to ensure that those women do not end up in the criminal justice system in the first place.

Which country in the world has the fewest deaths in custody, and what lessons are we learning from that country?

I am afraid I cannot name the country with the fewest deaths in custody, but what I can say is that we in this country work to create decent and humane prisons, and we are a signatory to the relevant United Nations protocols. As the Secretary of State has rightly pointed out, the rise in the number of deaths in custody is too high, and for that reason we shall shortly be publishing a safety and reform plan in our White Paper.