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INQUEST responds to EHRC’s one year on report - Preventing Deaths in Detention of Adults with Mental Health Conditions
18 March 2016
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) follow-up report to its earlier publication, Preventing Deaths in Detention of Adults with Mental Health Conditions, shows that since 2014, over 225 people died in prisons, psychiatric hospitals and police cells.
The report draws on many of the longstanding findings and recommendations made by INQUEST. These include: the poor treatment of individuals with mental health issues, the failures of institutions to learn lessons from deaths, and crucially, the need for independent and robust investigations of those who die in mental health detention where families are properly involved.
INQUEST has worked closely with the EHRC and helped to inform many of its findings by organising a Family Listening Day which enabled families, whose relative had died in custody/detention, to communicate their experiences and thoughts to Commissioners.
Deborah Coles, INQUEST Director said:
"INQUEST and the families we work with have long advocated for greater accountable learning arising from deaths in custody and detention. Recommendations from investigations and inquests too often disappear into the ether and the same failings are repeated time and again. We welcome EHRC's endorsement of our recommendations and we call on the government to take heed of these urgent calls for greater accountability and systematic change.
We particularly welcome the recognition that the deaths of detained people in health care settings should be independently investigated.There are an alarming number of deaths in mental health settings that are not being properly investigated because of the lack of transparency and independence in the current investigation process. Bereaved families and the wider public can have no confidence in a system where Trusts investigate themselves over deaths that may have been caused or contributed to by failures of their own staff or systems.
It is anomalous that these investigations into deaths of extremely vulnerable people are less rigorous than those in other forms of detention. INQUEST is calling for a new fully independent system for investigating these deaths. A more open and learning culture could help to safeguard lives in the future.”
The report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission can be found here.
In February 2015, INQUEST launched an evidence based report Deaths in Mental Health Detention: An investigation framework fit for purpose?, which called for
independent investigations into a death in mental health detention.
In November 2014 INQUEST organised a Family Listening Day that was designed to help the EHRC gather evidence from the families of adults with mental health conditions who had died in detention. In December 2004, the parliamentary JCHR Inquiry into Deaths in Custody published its findings and endorsed INQUEST’s recommendation for an independent investigation into deaths of detained patients.
‘My congratulations to all involved in this 30 year battle for disclosure [of the Cass report on the death of Blair Peach] … it was this awful state of affairs which led those of us who founded INQUEST to set it up. But it is mind-boggling to think that we were still arguing over this report 30 years later.’
– Terry Munyard, barrister at Garden Court Chambers and founding member of INQUEST