MORE than 90 offenders died while under probation supervision in the region in the last three years, new figures have shown.

Nationally, the number of people dying while under supervision increased by about a third in three years, a figure branded as “very concerning” by Frances Cook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Data for Humberside, Lincolnshire & North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (HLNYCRC ), which supervises offenders in North Yorkshire, revealed 29 deaths in 2015/16, 39 in 2016/17 and 26 in 2017/18. The exact location of the deaths could not be confirmed.

The figures - from the BBC’s Shared Data Unit - showed 11 offenders under HLNYCRC supervision took their own lives in 2015/16, eight the following year and 12 last year. Those who died from natural causes also spiked in 2016/2017, while there was one homicide in each of the last two years; none in 2015/16. There were two accidental deaths, both in 2015/16.

A spokesperson for HLNYCRC said: “Unfortunately, out of the 6,400 people under the supervision of HLNYCRC a small percentage of people do die while on probation, whether through natural causes or accidents. However, we remain committed to supporting offenders through their rehabilitation and protecting the public.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said probation did not have sole responsibility for caring for offenders, adding: “Our probation reforms were a positive change for public safety, extending supervision and support to approximately 40,000 extra offenders each year – nearly 20 per cent more than in 2014. This significant increase in volume, along with the rising age of offenders and improved recording practices, means a great deal of caution is needed when trying to draw conclusions from this data.”

He added the MoJ was investing “an extra £22 million in ‘through-the-gate’ assistance for offenders, to help them find the support they need on issues such as housing, healthcare and employment, and they have the same access to these services as any other person in the community”.

Frances Cook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the numbers were “extremely concerning”.

She said: “Further investigation is required, but it raises fears that the cycle of homelessness, cuts to local government and voluntary sector provision, and the spread of drugs, such as Spice, are having a devastating impact.

“Most significantly, it highlights the continued failure of private probation companies to keep people safe. Whereas before we had a successful publicly-run probation service with qualified and trained staff who saw their mission as befriending and turning lives around, we now have a fragmented service with a tick-box culture where some people are not even met face-to-face.”