The death of a newborn baby whose mother gave birth alone at Britain’s largest women’s prison is the subject of 10 investigations, a justice minister has told the Commons.
Lucy Frazer said the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman had been asked to conduct an “overarching” investigation into the incident at HMP Bronzefield.
A woman at the Surrey jail, run by Sodexo, gave birth on 27 September.
Prison director Vicky Robinson later confirmed the baby died.
Catherine West, Hornsey and Wood Green’s Labour MP, had asked: “In the tragic case of the baby which died in prison and the mother who laboured on her own in her cell, would the minister please in her review look at two things.
“Number one – were there enough prison officers on duty that night?
“And number two – will every single pregnant prisoner please be given a healthcare plan suitable to her needs in her pregnancy for every day of that pregnancy in which she’s in prison?”
The 10 investigations
- Internal investigation at HMP Bronzefield
- Internal Sodexo review
- Joint investigation between the Prison Service and HMP Bronzefield
- NHS Clinical Review
- Police Major Crimes Investigation
- Police Safeguarding investigation
- Surrey Social Services Rapid Response Review
- Camden Social Services Serious Case Review
- Child Death Overview Panel (Surrey)
- Coroner’s Report
Ms Frazer responded by outlining the investigations and added that she had spoken to the prison governor who had introduced hourly checks through the night for all pregnant women.
She added: “Fortnightly pregnancy review boards are being held for all pregnant women involving a multidisciplinary team. That’s happening throughout the female prisoner estate.”
Naomi Delap, director of the charity Birth Companions, said care should be taken that hourly checks did not compromise women’s wellbeing.
She said: “Individualised and carefully-informed care plans are the most effective way to safeguard the health and wellbeing of women and babies throughout pregnancy, birth and in the postnatal period.”
Deborah Coles, director of the charity Inquest, welcomed the involvement of the ombudsman and said: “There must be the most robust scrutiny of how this tragic death was able to happen.”
Adding that it was vital findings were made public, she said: “The investigation must identify clear actions to safeguard the lives of mothers and babies, who we believe, should not be in prison at all.”
HMP Bronzefield, near Ashford, which holds more than 500 inmates, is the main prison for female offenders in London and the south of England.
A Sodexo spokesman said the company had no further comment.