Vulnerable offenders are dying in custody because prison
authorities are failing in their duty of care under human rights
legislation, a report revealed this week, writes Maria
A group of MPs and Lords have accused the government and prisons
of neglecting Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights,
which protects the right to life.
The third report from the joint committee on human rights
slammed the “under-resourced and ramshackle” prison
system and called for greater action against deaths in custody.
A total of 434 prisoners in England and Wales took their own
lives between 1999 and 2003, equivalent to one every four days.
The report highlighted that prisoners with “multiple
vulnerabilities” including substance misuse and mental health
problems were being held “inappropriately” in
It said: “Although these vulnerabilities were in most
cases well known to the detaining institutions, or should have
been, they had failed in their responsibility to protect the people
in their charge from harm.”
The death of 16-year-old Joseph Scholes in March 2002 was
highlighted as an example of the “successive failures”
of the prison system in protecting children.
The committee also found “compelling evidence” of
the government’s failure to effectively investigate deaths,
an essential requirement of Article 2 of the ECHR.
The report said overcrowding in prisons “hampered”
efforts to reduce deaths, and blamed sentencing practice for the
rise in the prison population.
The committee concluded that a long-term reduction in the use of
custody was needed to prevent prison deaths, but said greater
resources were needed to achieve this.
The report also recommended the creation of a national expert
task-force on deaths in custody headed by the Home Office and the
Department of Health.
Report:- Deaths In Custody, the Third Report from the Joint
Committee on Human Rights can be obtained from: http://www.parliament.uk