Death in Custody

The Prisoner Ombudsmans Office took on the role of investigating deaths in prison custody in Northern Ireland in September 2005. In all our Death in Custody investigations care and attention is paid, among other things, to:

  • delivering a professional investigation
  • identifying any learning points for the Prison Service
  • answering family concerns and liaising with the family
  • meeting the needs of the Coroner

The unexpected death of a loved one in prison is naturally a very sad event. Some organisations can help loved ones by providing emotional support and counselling. Further information can be found at the Suicide Awareness and Support Group and Samaritans websites.

Since 2008 all Death in Custody investigations reports that have been published are placed on this website.

In February 2011, in her interim report, ‘Review of the Northern Ireland Prison Service’, Dame Anne Owers said that “An early task for the change management team will be to rationalise and prioritise the outstanding recommendations from the various external reviews and monitoring bodies. …. There should therefore be an early review of the recommendations, discarding those that are no longer relevant or are time expired, brigading into topic areas those that remain, identifying dependencies within the recommendations and with the change programme, and prioritising and timetabling action over a period of time. Inspectorates and monitors in return will expect real and measurable outcomes.”

The Prison Service and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) are currently engaged in two programmes of work with the aim of achieving significant change in the Northern Ireland Prison Service. These are the NIPS Strategic Efficiency and Effective (SEE) Programme, and the SEHSCT’s Service Improvement Boards. Where appropriate the Prisoner Ombudsman makes recommendations for improvement in death in custody investigation reports, and the Prison Service and SEHSCT are asked to address these as part of their programmes for change.