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Tuesday, January 26, 1999 Published at 06:53 GMT


Plan to cut prisoner deaths

About 60 people were injured or died in custody last year

Police will be required to complete risk assessment forms on every prisoner in an effort to cut deaths in custody.

The Home Office has announced a new form that will require information such as the medical and mental condition of a prisoner and whether they are violent or seen as an escape risk.

It will also identify any prisoners thought to be at risk of committing suicide.

The aim is to ensure that when prisoners are transferred between different parts of the criminal justice system relevant information about them is also passed on.

Tottenham case

Details of the new forms were published following the recent death of a 30-year-old man in custody.

Roger Sylvester collapsed after being detained by police in Tottenham, north London, under the Mental Health Act, and died a week later. An inquest into his death opens on Tuesday.

Eight officers have been moved to non-operational duties pending an inquiry.

Campaign groups and the Police Complaints Authority have expressed concern at the number of people who die or are injured in police custody which was around 60 last year.

Home Office Minister Paul Boateng said the new form, to be used in police forces across England and Wales, would bridge the bureaucratic gaps in the criminal justice system and bolster the safety and security of prisoners.

"Custody of a prisoner also includes their care," he said. "Anyone responsible for the custody of a prisoner must be aware at all times of any risks associated with them.

"These are risks which could affect their welfare, their security and the security of others who come into contact with the prisoner."

The Police Complaints Authority said the move was a "step in the right direction".

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