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The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Prison Service Order (PSO) 2700 (suicide and self-harm prevention) came into effect on 1 January 2003. It replaces the previous instructions and sets out mandatory requirements. This PSO brings existing policy in line with the direction of the Prison Service's approach to suicide prevention (the move from "awareness" to "prevention") and the broader context (decency, safety, the concept of the healthy prison). It provides prison staff with instructions on identifying prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm and on providing the subsequent care and support for such prisoners.
A guidance document Suicide Prevention Strategies has been issued in conjunction with this PSO. Copies of both have been lodged in the Library. The guidance document provides suggestions in line with the suicide and self-harm prevention strategy based on the Internal Review of Suicide and Self-harm in the Prison Service and incorporates protocols on the use of safer cells and information on the role of Samaritans and prisoner peer supporters. It aims to support the practices and procedures set out in PSO 2700, while recognising that not all the guidance will be appropriate or feasible or affordable for all establishments. Managers are encouraged to judge which suggestions are appropriate to their type/category of establishment and carefully to consider which aspects of the advice they believe realistically can be implemented in their establishment within the resources available.
These documents cannot reflect all the learning from the Prison Service's suicide prevention and self-harm reduction programme, which is at its half-way stage. This programme includes a series of projects to address pre-reception, reception and induction arrangements; inter-agency information exchange; prisoner care; detoxification; prisoner peer support, and the learning from investigations into deaths in custody. The three-year programme, which started in April 2001, will be subject to an independent evaluation, and a new generation of replacement PSOs is planned for 2004. It is likely that, as with PSO 2700 and the supporting guide, the distinction between mandatory actions and good practice will be maintained.Joan
What steps are being taken to reduce the long delays and late arrivals of prisoners from court and to improve the limited information received by prisons from escort contractors; and what assessment has been made of the benefits that could be secured from placing responsibility for escort services with the Prison Service.[HL756]
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Prison Service is taking a number of steps to improve the service to the courts. These include the greater use of video links to reduce prisoner movements to court and the provision of additional resources to contractors to enable them to respond to the increased volume of business.
All necessary information is passed between the contractor and the Prison Service whenever a prisoner is moved. Any failure to pass on any necessary information would be investigated by the Prison Service as part of their monitoring processes.
The contracting out of prisoner escort arrangements has offered better value for money and a reduction in the number of escapes and has freed up prison officers to concentrate on their core duties. A recent Prison Service review confirmed that the service should continue to be contracted out. It also concluded that
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary launched a three-year safer custody programme in April 2001 aimed at reducing deaths, self-harm and violence in prisons. The programme targets the highest risk prisoners in the highest risk locations, concentrating on six pilot sites. As part of this programme the Prison Service is considering how it can improve and strengthen investigation procedures into deaths in custody to determine not only what happened in an individual case but also how practice might be improved in future to try to prevent further deaths.
The Prison Service has conducted a wide-scale consultation exercise, considering a number of options (including asking HM Chief Inspector of Prisons to conduct such inquiries) to make investigations into deaths in custody more independent. Ministers are considering whether to give responsibility for investigating deaths in prison custody to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. In the interim, the Prison Service is doing what it can within available resources to strengthen and improve the current system of investigating deaths in custody. There are no plans at present to introduce routine independent investigations for serious incidents in prisons.
Section 5A(4) 1952 permits the Home Secretary to refer specific matters connected with prisons and prisoners to HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and direct her to report on them. Similarly, the Home Secretary can ask the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman to investigate and report on any prison matter.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The independent review team delivered its conclusions and recommendations to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in December. These took the form of advice to Ministers, including on matters that are commercially confidential; as such they are not in a form suitable for publication. We shall be considering the review team's findings and recommendations very carefully and are minded to publish a summary document, together with the Government's response, in due course.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights has given us the following response to the noble Lord's question:
China has issued invitations to the Rapporteur on Torture and the Rappporteur on the Right to Education. It has also recently repeated an earlier invitation to the chairman of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
At the most recent UK/China human rights dialogue in November 2002 we urged China to issue an open invitation to all special rapporteurs and in particular to the new Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. The Chinese response was that their authorities would be unable to cope with a flurry of visits and that the UN's limited budget for rapporteurs should not be concentrated on just a few countries. However, they agreed to consider issuing an invitation to the Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
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