Ask the Ombudsman: January 2019

The PPO receives a steady stream of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from our stakeholders and the general public. These requests help us to channel the data gathered from our investigations towards a better understanding of the challenges faced by the services within our remit.
As a part of each issue, we will pass that knowledge on to you. If you would like to ask a question, or even submit your own FOI request, please email the Ombudsman at

FOI Request 217, dated 03/10/2018:
In the last five years, how many deaths in prison have been related to or caused by Legal Highs or New Psychoactive Substances?

The Ombudsman answered:
In the last five years, the PPO has investigated 129 deaths in prison with a significant link to Psychoactive Substances (PS)

By ‘significant link’ we are not solely referring to cases where the coroner has concluded that PS has caused or is likely to have caused a prisoner’s death, but these are of course included.

The deaths we include in these figures have been identified from final investigation reports where the individual (or perpetrator of the death) used, or was suspected of using PS and where our investigation has identified PS-related learning. They do not refer solely to cases where the deceased was under the influence of PS before they died, though may of course include such cases.

Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Psychoactive substances, deaths incustody