Schedule 8

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:00 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice) 12:00, 22 Tachwedd 2007

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Northampton, North for returning us to this subject. It is one that she introduced on the Floor of the House in an Adjournment debate towards the end of the last Session. The Minister of State responded to that debate and I, too, was present as the shadow Prisons Minister.

The hon. Lady and I have a constituency interest in that in the case involving the death of her constituent in a secure training centre, one of my constituents was one of the officers who could have been prosecuted had the case been found to have a criminal tinge to it. Fortunately, for my constituent, it did not. Of course, that does not take away the appalling nature of the incident that led to the hon. Lady’s constituent dying and the tragedy that it caused the family.

Before we conclude on the deaths remit, I should like to remind the Minister of what the Prison Reform Trust said to us in its written submissions during the evidence sessions. It wanted to be assured that the deaths remit would extend to people held in police and court cells under Operation Safeguard, to children held in local authority secure children’s homes—that  question may have been partly answered already—and to people who die within 72 hours of their release from custody.

The last point is particularly important, because the rate of self-harm and suicide in the first few days after release from prison is very high and far higher than it is in the ordinary population, if I may call it that. The period immediately after release is one of the most difficult periods for people. Approximately three quarters of prisoners who are released are suffering from some form of substance abuse that was not dealt with while they were in custody. They very often have nowhere to live and no job to go to. They have lost contact with their families; indeed, they are utterly lost and alone. That is not to suggest that they should not have been in prison—quite the contrary. For a great many people who are in prison, it is right that they went to prison. There is a proportion who perhaps should not have gone to prison, but there we are.

Whoever comes out of prison needs to be looked after by someone in many cases, but in many cases they are not and they die. They die from drug overdoses and suicide and, in my submission, the numbers are far too high. Can the Minister therefore confirm that the commissioner’s remit in matters of death does not stop simply because the death occurs outside the prison walls as opposed to inside the prison walls, so long as the period within which the death occurs is sufficiently and reasonably proximate to the date of release from custody?