Help and Information Following a Death in Custody
The death of a loved one in prison can be very difficult for their family, especially if the death was unexpected or untimely. Families Outside knows this can be extremely challenging for you and your family; you are likely to be feeling a whole range of emotions as well as supporting your wider family, dealing with public agencies, and making important decisions. Remember that help is available. If you need someone to speak to or emotional support, you can call the Families Outside Helpline on 0800 254 008.
Information from Families Outside and the Scottish Prison Service
Families Outside and the Scottish Prison Service chaplaincy team have produced an information booklet for families, which provides information about what will happen when a death occurs in prison custody. This includes:
- Support available for families who have lost a loved one in prison from the prison service chaplaincy teams, Families Outside, and other specialist organisations that can support you following a bereavement
- The Death in Prison Learning and Audit Review (DIPLAR) process to review the circumstances surrounding a death in prison, undertaken by the Prison Service
- The Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) process, the statutory investigation in to the circumstances surrounding a death in prison, undertaken by the Procurator Fiscal
Family Liaison Charter
Under the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Act 2016, a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) is mandatory when a person dies in prison custody (including hospital). The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), which carries out FAIs, have a Family Liaison Charter, which sets out:
- how staff at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service should liaise with the family of the person who has died
- the different stages of the investigation process
- the information that should be provided to bereaved families and the timescales for giving information
Deaths in Custody Review
In November 2019, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP announced an independent review into the response to deaths in prison custody.
Wendy Sinclair-Gieben, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland (HMCIPS), Nancy Loucks, Chief Executive of Families Outside, and Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission are co-chairing the Review. Families Outside is providing external expertise to provide a specific focus on support for families following a death in prison custody. The review is expected to publish its findings later this year.
Full Terms of Reference for the review are available here.