Thursday 26 February 2015

A most serious report

Here is a very serious report - Equality and Human Rights Commission - Preventing deaths in detention of adults with mental health conditions.

I wonder whether government will really take very seriously the matter of the deaths of those detained by the State.

With respect to deaths in prison - INQUEST has some statistics.  Over the years 2010-14 there were 1001 deaths in prison and 336 of them were self-inflicted.

Over the same period, deaths of those aged 21 or less and detained in either prison or young offenders institutions came to 38 out of 38 - see here.

The figures do not necessarily
show that there is a link to the government's penal policies but there are surely grounds for major concern that there MAY be such a link.  It is time for a thorough look at this issue.  For my part, I would like to see Parliament taking a greater interest in the REALITY of penal policy.

Following such deaths, an inquest has to be held.  The Lord Chancellor (aka Secretary of State for Justice) has recently lost a judicial review in the High Court relating to the guidance for legal aid at inquests - see the judgment of Green J in Letts v Lord Chancellor [2015] EWHC 402 (Admin).

There has been a governmental reluctance to grant legal aid to the relatives of deceased persons and this has been "justified" on the basis that a Coroner's Court uses an inquisitorial process as opposed to an adversarial one. - see para 53 of the judgment.  This argument has always seemed to me to overlook the essential fact that the law is complex and an important role of counsel is to assist the court to not only get the law as accurate as possible but to also apply it correctly to the facts of the case.

The Judiciary has published a response from the Chief Coroner to the EHRC report.

Once upon a time the government considered abolition of the EHRC - see Bonfire of the Quangos 8th October 2010.   Always a possible answer to a body that issues "awkward" reports !!  However, the EHRC did not end up listed in Schedule 1 to the Public Bodies Act 2011.

1 comment:

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