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The IAP on Deaths in Custody commences its initial work programme

The role of the IAP is to provide independent advice and expertise to ministers on deaths in all forms of state custody, which covers prisons, police, approved premises, immigration and those detained under the Mental Health Act in hospitals. The panel has identified a number of initial work priorities to be taken forward, while a longer-term work programme is developed. Their work will primarily be taken forward via working groups led by a member of the panel. An overview of the particular areas that the working groups will start to scope out over the next six to nine months is provided below:

Use of restraint

This working group will undertake a review of the number of deaths in custody where the use of restraint may have been a contributory factor and examine the guidance currently being used within the different custodial settings in relation to its use. They will also consider whether cross-sector guidance on the principles of the use of restraint would be useful. Professor Richard Shepherd will lead this work.

Information flow through the criminal justice system

This group will examine how information about an individual’s health needs and their risk of suicide or self-harm could be more effectively shared during their journey through the criminal justice system. Professor Stephen Shute will lead this work.

Risks relating to the transfer and escorting of detainees

This group led by Dr Peter Dean will explore the particular risks relating to the transfer and escorting of detainees and the training provided to escort staff. A key focus will be the revised Person Escort Record in order to learn as much as possible about the process and how any benefits from it can be maximised. Rather than looking at the form itself in isolation, this group will look at it in the context of a safe transfer process.

Article 2 compliant investigations

This working group will build upon the work undertaken by the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody, which examined whether the current arrangements for investigating deaths in custody complied with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Professor Philip Leach will lead this work.

Cross-sector learning

This group will identify how the different sectors capture and share learning in relation to deaths and near deaths in custody, as well as how this learning is used to inform policy and training, fed back to operational staff and communicated to bereaved families. They will also liaise with relevant investigative and regulatory bodies to explore opportunities for disseminating the early lessons that they identify as part of their work. Deborah Coles will take this work forward.

Deaths of patients detained under the Mental Health Act

This group led by Simon Armson will undertake some scoping work to identify the key work priorities for the IAP in relation to the deaths of those detained under the MHA, which will be taken forward as part of the longer-term work programme. Lord Toby Harris, the Chair of the Independent Advisory Panel, said: "Although ambitious, the initial work priorities identified by the IAP will enable us to take stock of the work undertaken to date, make recommendations to address any gaps and identify key deliverables, which will be taken forward by the IAP as part of the longer term work programme over the next three years. We are also in the process of establishing our own website to keep practitioners and other interested parties updated on the work of the Panel and to share learning about deaths in custody." The IAP will be supported by a broad group representing practitioners and stakeholders. The Practitioner and Stakeholder Group will be a large group consisting of representatives from a range of organisations including the police, prisons, Youth Justice Board, UK Border Agency, private sector custody providers, Department of Health or NHS secure services, inspectorates, investigative bodies and non-governmental organisations. The main role of this group will be to provide expertise and input into the IAP’s working groups. Most of the time it will be a ‘virtual’ group, but the intention will be for all of its members to be brought together at an annual deaths in custody conference. For further information on the Ministerial Council, the initial work priorities of the IAP or the Practitioner and Stakeholder Group, please contact Jane Forsyth, the Head of Secretariat to the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody via the contact page. Notes to Editors
  1. The Fulton Report was published in February 2008 and recommended the creation of a new structure to replace the Ministerial Roundtable on Suicide and the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody.
  2. Lord Toby Harris was appointed as the inaugural Chair of the IAP in December 2008, followed by the six members of the Panel in April 2009 who were selected for their expertise in matters connected with deaths in custody.
  3. The Independent Advisory Panel forms one tier of the new three-tier Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody, announced by the Ministry of Justice in July 2008, following the publication of the Fulton Review. The council consists of three tiers: the Ministerial Board, the IAP and the Practitioner and Stakeholder Group. The new council is jointly funded by the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Health and the Home Office.
The Ministerial Council officially commenced operation on 1 April 2009.

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