Probation Circular

NEW PROCEDURES FOR MONITORING DEATHS UNDER SUPERVISION
PURPOSE This circular establishes new procedures to be followed where it is discovered that an offender under the supervision of the National Probation Service (NPS) has died. The purpose of the new procedures will be to enhance the care and welfare of both offenders and NPS staff and to collect data that can inform future strategies to improve accountability. ACTION Chief Officers are asked to bring the contents of this circular to the attention of all staff, and ensure that an Assistant Chief Officer is assigned to monitor the details of deaths of offenders under NPS supervision. SUMMARY This circular asks Probation Areas to ensure systems are established for: reviewing relevant circumstances surrounding the death of offenders under supervision by the NPS; helping relevant staff, of whatever grade, deal with the potential impact of an offender’s death; making an annual report on deaths of offenders under supervision, together with any relevant learning, to the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). RELEVANT PREVIOUS PROBATION CIRCULARS PC02/2004 – Deaths of Approved Premises Residents. PC54/2003 – Serious Further Offences CONTACT FOR ENQUIRIES Enquiries about this circular to: Akile Osman 020 7217 8058 akile.osman@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk Or, Jo Thompson 020 7217 8823 jo.thompson8@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk Annual Reports to be sent to: Jo Thompson, Public Protection and Licence Release Section, NOMS, First Floor, Horseferry House, Dean Ryle Street, London, SW1P 2AW
REFERENCE NO: 60/2005 ISSUE DATE: 11 August 2005 IMPLEMENTATION DATE: 1 October 2005 EXPIRY DATE: September 2010 TO: Chairs of Probation Boards Chief Officers of Probation Secretaries of Probation Boards CC: Board Treasurers Regional Managers AUTHORISED BY: John Scott, Head of Public Protection and Licence Release Section ATTACHED: Annex A – Annual Report to NOMS on Deaths Under NPS Supervision Annex B – Report to ACO on the Death of an Offender Under NPS Supervision Annex C – Report on the Circumstances of Death Annex D – Instructions for Completing the Forms at Annex A,B & C

National Probation Directorate
Horseferry House, Dean Ryle Street, London, SW1P 2AW

BACKGROUND 1. Despite long standing arrangements for investigating and reporting deaths of offenders who reside in Approved Premises (recently updated in PC 2/2004), little is known of the extent of deaths of offenders under other forms of supervision by the Probation Service. 2. Although the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s (PPO) role investigating deaths in custody and Approved Premises does not extend automatically to broader supervision by the NPS, the office of the PPO may investigate a death under any circumstances should it choose to do so, on the request of the relatives or of the Home Secretary. 3. It is recognised that the relationship of the NPS to offenders under supervision in the community is different from its relationship to offenders residing in Approved Premises. Nevertheless, with a view to constantly improving practice, it is important that the NPS is aware of the nature of any deaths or any circumstances which may have contributed to a premature death. 4. The NPS has a duty of care towards its staff which requires it to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place to support individual members of staff who suffer trauma and distress where offenders under their supervision die. ACTION 5. Chief Officers should appoint an Assistant Chief Officer responsible for monitoring deaths of offenders under supervision and for making an annual report to the NPD on behalf of the Probation Area. A template for the report is attached at Annex A. This will be a collated report highlighting data such as the age of the offenders, the nature of the deaths and ethnicity. It will be largely statistical but will include space for reporting any changes in local procedures resulting from the investigation of a death under supervision. It is intended that this report should highlight any particular trends in each area and allow the NPS to use these figures when devising future strategies. The ACO will also be responsible for ensuring that the following procedures are put in place. PROCEDURES 6. When a staff member supervising an offender becomes aware of the death of the offender, he/she should immediately report the death to the Senior Probation Officer (SPO) responsible for that case. The SPO should then initiate three courses of action: Firstly, separately from the normal course of supervision, he or she should arrange a brief meeting with the supervising officer and any other relevant staff.
a)

The purpose of this meeting is to establish whether it is necessary to discuss together or separately the effects on individuals of the death. This initial contact need only be brief but should take place on the day that the Probation Office is made aware of the death (or, if that is not practical, as soon as possible thereafter). Since the effects of some trauma may become more pronounced with time, it should be made clear to staff that this will not be their only opportunity to discuss any subsequent reaction to a death. Arrangements for any member of staff who requests further assistance to discuss his/her feelings with the SPO or with another member of staff should be made at the earliest opportunity. Most Probation Areas will already have counselling services in place, and it is important that the SPO informs the supervising officer of these services and enables him/her to take up the opportunity of using them.

b)

c)

d)

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Second, he or she should inform the ACO responsible for monitoring deaths under supervision, of the death and complete the report (Annex B) informing the ACO of the details of the deceased. It is particularly important to highlight if there is likely to be any media interest. This report needs to be completed within 24 hours of the office finding out that the offender has died. Thirdly, the ACO should review the circumstances of the offender’s death (once discovered) and discuss them with the SPO and any other relevant staff, including partner organisations.
a)

This will almost certainly involve further investigation. It is not appropriate to assign a target to this process since it is dependent on other agencies’ involvement. e.g. the Police, the Coroner or may necessitate awaiting the outcome of a trial. It will be important that a clear and detailed factual record is kept of any relevant circumstances surrounding such a death, once discovered. This record should be as contemporaneous as possible. In the event that the conduct of any NPS employee is subject to scrutiny either by the PPO, a coroner or as part of civil or criminal proceedings such records will be vital for helping establish what happened and how. When those investigations are complete, the SPO should arrange an interview with the supervising officer. The purpose of the interview will be to establish the extent of any NPS concerns about the quality of care and supervision of the offender, along with the circumstances surrounding the offender’s death so that the SPO can prepare a brief report (Annex C) to the responsible ACO. This report will inform the ACO of the details of the death, any information given or required to be disclosed by the Coroner (if necessary), whether there are any links between the death and OASys/risk of harm levels and whether any further action needs to be commenced. Few time limits have been assigned to these procedures for reasons which have been made clear. However, good practice in terms of the NPS duty of care to staff involves early meetings with staff involved with the offender or with those staff members affected by the death.

b)

c)

d)

7. At the point where the responsible ACO is notified of the death, he or she should make a judgement on the basis of the information available, about whether to notify the Press Officer at the local Area HQ and/or the NPD. In the absence of press interest or the possibility thereof, it will not normally be necessary to report individual deaths to the NPD, unless required by other instructions. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION 2000 AND DATA PROTECTION ACT 1998 8. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), there is specific guidance relating to requests for information on deceased offenders. Whilst the form that needs to be completed (at annex C) covers issues such as the offender’s details and the circumstances of the death, there is nothing in the Act which will prevent these forms from being disclosed (if requested). Therefore it is of particular importance to carefully record the sections on management action and risks which were previously identified by the NPS, remembering that third parties may request the papers. 9. Under the Data Protection Act, sensitive personal details (which could include physical or mental health and criminal proceedings or convictions) which are held on an individual whilst they are alive could be protected from the public. However once that individual is deceased, that information would no longer be protected under the Data Protection Act and could therefore become accessible to the general public under the Freedom of Information Act. There are some “qualified” exemptions from disclosure under the FOI, such as the impact that such information would have on people involved with the offender, i.e. victims of the offender’s crimes, the family of the offender or victim, etc; but most of the information would be accessible by the public. Accordingly, even if the exemptions apply, the public interest test has to be applied to determine

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whether information should be disclosed or withheld. Further information concerning the exemptions under the FOI can be found at the Information Commissioner’s website at: www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk/eventual.aspx?id=8263 OTHER MATTERS 10. It will not normally be the responsibility of NPS staff to notify either the relatives or close friends of the offender’s death, as this will fall under the remit of the Police. The supervising officer should, however, ensure that the Victim Liaison Officer (VLO) is notified, where the VLO is in contact with the offender’s victim/s, who will in turn be notified of the offender’s death. 11. Where offenders under supervision die at the hands of another offender under supervision by the NPS, the death should be recorded in the statistics reported to the National Probation Directorate by virtue of this circular but any separate investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death need not be pursued since a serious further offence report / investigation will be commenced. 12. Where offenders resident in Approved Premises die while under supervision by the NPS, their deaths should be recorded in the statistics reported to the NPD by virtue of this circular, but any separate investigation will be undertaken by the PPO, as set out in PC 02/2004. All of the procedures set out in PC 02/2004 remain in place. 13. This circular must be implemented by 1st October 2005 (recording should begin from this date) and should run until 31st March 2006, as an annual report will be needed for 2005/06. The completed annual report should be sent to Jo Thompson (PPLRS, NOMS, 1st Floor Horseferry House, Dean Ryle Street, London SW1A 2AE) by 20th April 2006. From then on, the reporting year will be a standard fiscal year running from 1st April until 31st March each year.

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ANNEX A – ANNUAL REPORT TO NPD ON DEATHS OF OFFENDERS UNDER NPS SUPERVISION
Probation Area: Contact details: Originating Officer:

Total Number of Deaths During the Year to 31 March: Total Number of Deaths Investigated:

TOTAL MALE DEATHS: CAUSE OF DEATHS OR CORONERS VERDICTS: Misadventure or Accident: Suicide: Unlawful killing: Open:

Other including Industrial Narrative Diseases: Verdict: Awaiting: TYPE OF SENTENCE / SUPERVISION: OLD SENTENCES: Community Order: Lifer: NEW Imprisonment Suspended Sentence Order: Non-Parole Release (NPD): Extended

Natural Causes:

Drug Overdose:

Automatic Conditional Release (ACR): Young Offender: Standard

Discretionary Conditional Release (DCR):

Intermittent

SENTENCES:

for Public Protection (IPP): New Community Order:

Sentence:

Determinate Sentence (SDS): Custody Plus:

Custody:

Suspended Sentence Order (Custody Minus):

Deferment of Sentence:

NUMBER RESIDENT IN APPROVED PREMISES (Bailles Included): ETHNICITY TOTAL WHITE: British: Irish: Other: TOTAL MIXED: W&B Caribbean: W&B African: W & Asian: TOTAL ASIAN: Indian: Pakistani: Bangladeshi: Other: ETHNICITY NOT AVAILABLE: AGE RANGE 18-24: 25-35: 36-49: 50-65: 65+: TOTAL BLACK: Caribbean: African: Other: TOTAL CHINESE: Chinese: Other:

TOTAL FEMALE DEATHS: CAUSE OF DEATHS OR CORONERS VERDICTS: Misadventure or Accident: Suicide: Unlawful killing: Open:

Other including Industrial Narrative Diseases: Verdict: Awaiting:

Natural Causes:

Drug Overdose:

TYPE OF SENTENCE / SUPERVISION: OLD SENTENCES: Community Order: Lifer: NEW SENTENCES: Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP): New Community Order: Suspended Sentence Order: Non-Parole Release (NPD): Extended Sentence: Automatic Conditional Release (ACR): Young Offender: Standard Determinate Sentence (SDS): Custody Plus: Intermittent Custody: Discretionary Conditional Release (DCR):

Suspended Sentence Order (Custody Minus):

Deferment of Sentence:

NUMBER RESIDENT IN APPROVED PREMISES (Bailles Included): ETHNICITY TOTAL WHITE: British: Irish: Other: TOTAL MIXED: W&B Caribbean: W&B African: W & Asian: TOTAL ASIAN: Indian: Pakistani: Bangladeshi: Other: ETHNICITY NOT AVAILABLE: AGE RANGE 18-24: 25-35: 36-49: 50-65: 65+: TOTAL BLACK: Caribbean: African: Other: TOTAL CHINESE: Chinese: Other:

Have you made any changes to policy/procedures as a result of a death or deaths of offenders under supervision (training / development / staff care)? YES / NO If yes, please describe:

Can you highlight any good practice undertaken that has arisen out of this monitoring?

ANNEX B – REPORT TO ACO ON THE DEATH OF AN OFFENDER UNDER NPS SUPERVISION
Office: Originating Senior Probation Officer: Contact details:

OFFENDER DETAILS Offender’s Name: Gender: Ethnicity: Age: Offence(s):

Type of supervision: Approved Premises resident:

Brief description of reporting level, programmes, requirements, compliance etc:

Likely to be Media Interest:

Victim Liaison Officer:

ANNEX C – OFFICIAL CAUSE AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF DEATH
Office: Originating Senior Probation Officer: Contact details:

Offender’s Name: Gender: Ethnicity: Age: Date of Death: Official Cause of Death or Coroner’s Verdict:

Describe briefly: Was the cause of death linked to any identified criminogenic need in OASys - Risk of Harm levels (age; locality; presenting behaviour; were support measures in place)? YES / NO If yes, please describe:

Have you made any changes to policy/procedure as a result of the death (welfare; training / development)? YES / NO If yes, please describe:

Does any further action need to be taken in regard to the death of this offender? YES / NO If yes, please describe:

ANNEX D – INSTRUCTIONS FOR COMPLETING THE FORMS AT ANNEX A, B&C

Annex A – Annual Report to NPD on Deaths of Offenders Under NPS Supervision
This annual report is to be completed at the end of each fiscal year (31st March) by the nominated Assistant Chief Officer in each area, who has responsibility for monitoring the deaths of offenders supervised by the National Probation Service. This is an overall look at the deaths which have occurred and is based mainly on the statistical collation of each death. Total Male/Female Deaths – This is the total number of deaths of males/females in your specific area throughout this reporting year. Cause of Deaths or Coroners Verdicts – In this section the ACO is expected to breakdown the number of deaths into their appropriate categories. Hence if there were 10 deaths in that reporting year and three of them were caused by misadventure or accident then the ACO would mark that box with the number three, etc. Narrative verdicts are brief statements, prepared by the coroner, describing how the person came by his/her death and are used where short form verdicts do not adequately describe what happened. If no outcome on the cause of death has been confirmed by the time the reporting period ends then the ACO would mark the box entitled ‘awaiting’. Although this box will be marked the actual figure will not be collated until the following reporting year once we have a definative cause of death. Type of Supervision – This section is to highlight if there is a particularly high number of deaths of offenders who are subject to a specific type of supervision. Therefore if, of the 10 aforementioned deaths, 6 of them were offenders who were subject to a community order then the ACO would mark 6 in the appropriate box. Custody + has been included on this form to account for the expected implementation in Autumn 2006. Deferment of Sentence – The Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduces new provisions relating to the deferment of sentences. It allows the court to appoint

the National Probation Service, or other responsible person (with their consent) to oversee the offender’s conduct during the deferment period and prepare a report for the court at the point of sentence (ie the end of the deferment period). Where an offender dies during this period of deferment and the National Probation Service was appointed to oversee the individual’s conduct, it should be counted in the appropriate box. Ethnicity – This section has been designed to mirror the categories in an OASys form. The ACO is expected to give figures for both the total number of individuals from each ethnic background and then to sub-divide the number into ethnic sub-category. Age Range – This section is in order for us to monitor the trends concerning the ages of the offenders who have died whilst under NPS supervision. This section is simply a collation of the deaths in each age group. Have you made any changes to policy/procedures as a result of a death or deaths of offenders under supervision – Self-explanatory. Please explain briefly any changes which may have occurred. These can be changes in the training of staff, changes to the way you refer staff to counselling services, etc.

Annex B - Report to ACO on the Death of an Offender Under NPS Supervision
Most of this form is self-explanatory. The only sections that may need clarification are: Likely to be Media Interest – this section is very important in highlighting to the ACO whether or not there is likely to be media interest surrounding the death of this particular offender. If there is likely to be interest it is the responsibility of the ACO to contact the appropriate press office/PR team and explain the situation to them. Victim Liaison Officer – Once an office has been informed of the death of one of their offenders the supervising officer has a responsibility to inform the relevant Victim Liaison Officer (if appropriate). This section just needs the name of that officer.

Annex C
Cause of Death or Coroner’s Verdict – This section needs a brief comment regarding the official cause of the death or the coroner’s verdict. This does not need to be substantial unless the coroner has given a narrative verdict in which case it should be fully transcribed. Was the cause of death linked to any identified criminogenic need in OASys and Risk of Harm levels – If the answer is yes we would like an

explanation. Were factors identified which led to concerns about the offender’s risk of self-harm/vulnerability. If risks were identified – how were they being addressed? Have you made any changes to policy/procedures as a result of a death or deaths of offenders under supervision – Self-explanatory. Please explain briefly any changes which may have occurred. These can be changes in the training of staff, revision of the local Strategy for reducing sudden deaths in Approved premises, changes to the way you refer staff to counselling services, etc.