Thursday 21 September 2017

'Serious gaps' in care as '400 killed themselves' after being released from prison

Almost all the deaths happened within 48 hours of release from custody
Almost all the deaths happened within 48 hours of release from custody

Press reporter

The human rights watchdog has found that 400 people killed themselves shortly after being released from police custody in England and Wales in the last seven years, it has been reported.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it had unearthed "serious gaps" in the care of people who had been in custody, with its chairman describing it as "fractured", according to the BBC.

Almost all the deaths happened within 48 hours of release from custody and around a third involved people who had been arrested over allegations of sexual abuse.

The EHRC is said to have urged the Government to consider transferring responsibility for healthcare in police stations to the NHS.

The Home Office said that while the figures showed a slight fall in the last year, every death in or following police custody "represents a failure and has the potential to dramatically undermine the relationship between the police and the communities they serve".

David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "When the state detains people, it also has a very high level of responsibility to ensure they are safely rehabilitated back into their communities, particularly those who may be vulnerable.

"Our report reveals a fractured state of post-detention care that is potentially leading to hundreds of deaths."

The data was provided by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) covering a period from April 2009 to the end of March 2016.

Among the 400 deaths there were 128 people who killed themselves after they had been arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse.

The report said sex offenders, especially those who commit offences against children, are likely to feel "high levels of shame and experience high levels of social exclusion".

There were also 83 people - around a fifth - who had been investigated over crimes of violence, 44 who had faced breach of the peace or criminal damage allegations, and 38 who had been detained on suspicion of driving offences.

The number of cases generally rose over the period analysed by the EHRC, but in 2015/16 dropped to the lowest level since 2011/12, a fall from 70 to 60.

The watchdog said it launched the review because of the "considerably" less attention paid to those who died in the "immediate aftermath" of detention.

The review by Dame Elish Angiolini also looked at deaths in custody and is due to be published in due course.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We welcome the Equality and Human Rights Commission's report into this important issue.

"Every death in or following police custody represents a failure and has the potential to dramatically undermine the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.

"Over recent years police forces have worked closely with NHS England to improve the quality and provision of custody health services and build better local partnerships.

"While the number of deaths has fallen, we are not complacent - which is why we launched an independent review in 2015 to identify areas for improvement. The review has consulted with the ECHR and we will consider all of the findings in detail when the report is published."

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