If you are interested in learning more about INQUEST’s history, take a look at the resources below.

Whilst the format and length of our annual reports have shifted over the past four decades, they provide a snapshot of the cases that INQUEST has worked on, campaign activities, policy changes, financial records and the broader politics for each year they were published.

We have also also uploaded INQUEST's early bulletins that were published in The Abolitionist. Started in 1979, The Abolitionist was the journal of Radical Alternatives to Prison (RAP).

RAP was set up in 1970 by a group of former prisoners and people connected with the prison service. They called for the abolition of prison and aimed to research and propose alternatives to prison.

Published until 1987, the magazine printed news items and articles from groups doing connected work, such as INQUEST and Women in Prison. Home to INQUEST's early bulletins about current cases and growing streams of work, The Abolitionist is an important record of INQUEST's foundational years as it established itself as an organisation to support bereaved families in their struggles for justice. Scroll down & click on the cover to download these bulletins.

INQUEST Annual Reports 

Yellow and black cover The first annual report includes chapters on the London workers, activity outside London, deaths involving the police (with a focus on Colin Roach and Nicholas Ofusu), prison deaths, and an update from Women in Prison and Coroners' Courts.
The northern worker report (1982-83) was written by INQUEST's Northern worker, Mark Ubanowicz. It features a general outline of 31 cases and a spotlight on several cases, including four deaths at Walton Prison, Liverpool, all within five months.  
INQUEST's 1983-84 annual report covers five cases where the coroner’s juries found that ‘lack of care’ contributed to deaths in custody. These were Jim Heather-Hayes, Matthew Paul, Ian Methven, Richard Overton and Michael Martin. It also features information about setting up a self-help group to combat isolation felt by families who have been bereaved by state-related deaths. 
Our 1984-85 annual report coincides with the publication of Death in the City by written by Melissa Benn and Ken Worpole. It details the lack of public funding to investigate deaths in custody. As a result, work was done in cooperation with RAP (Radical Alternatives to Prison), PROP (the National Prisoners Movement), WIP (Women in Prison) and Black Female Prisoners Scheme to launch PAIN (Prisoners Advice and Information Network). The report also discusses the new Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, with concerns that it would result in the import of Northern Irish policing models to mainland UK, which would further widen the gulf between police and certain communities, for example Black communities. INQUEST campaigned against the Bill, and the Home Office took on board some recommendations concerning medical attention in custody. 

Coroners’ courts are under scrutiny the 1985-86 annual report. INQUEST called for a national training scheme for coroners, for coroners’ officers to be independent of police and other services, and the strengthening of existing powers to order public inquiries. Here's a quote about the desperate need to reform the coronial system:

Our experience of Coroners' courts tells us that it is virtually impossible for any lay person, let alone a person suffering the stress of bereavement, to present a case effectively. The notion that inquests are relatively informal is a myth: they are formal at best, and intimidating at worst.

The 1986-1987 annual report includes an introduction to INQUEST and notes the rise in cases from 1987 as compared to the same period from the year before. An increased number of cases also reached the High Court, where it is established that verdicts of "Unlawful Killing" and "Suicide" require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but other verdicts can be returned on a balance of possibilities e.g., "lack of care." It is also established that there is no difference between “accidental death” and “misadventure” and that coroners’ juries cannot make recommendations.  In addition, the case of Stephen Bogle raises a conversation about Brixton prison, described as ‘Britain’s most lethal prison.  
Black and white report cover

Over the period 1987-1988, INQEUST sent a representative (June Tweedie) to the high-profile Gibraltar Inquest, involving the deaths of three IRA members, and subsequently published a report on the coroner. Criticising the inequality of arms, the report explained how ‘the lack of legal aid in inquest proceedings is particularly unjust where, as here, the government, police and soldiers are represented at public expense.’  

This annual report also mentioned the Report of the Independent Committee of Inquiry into Policing in Hackney that was commissioned by the Roach Family Support Committee. Five years following his death, the Report endorsed INQUEST’s submissions on the Colin Roach inquest and reform of coroner’s courts.

Updating on the legal battle surrounding Blair Peach’s death, it reports on the Metropolitan Police paying a settlement: ‘We salute the Friends of Blair Peach for their epic struggle; it is no fault of theirs that money, where the law is concerned, takes priority over the truth’.

During this period, INQUEST was worked with the charity MIND to look at the roughly 12,000 deaths in psychiatric hospitals every year. Most deaths were the result of old age, but there was concern raised about the numbers of accidents and suicides, for which research funding was sought.

The 1988-1989 Annual Report described an ‘epidemic’ of suicides at Risley Remand Centre and Armley Prison (Leeds). Likewise, there were eight suicides at Brixton prison in 1989. At a press conference in April 1989, organised by Barry Sheerman MP, the results of a parliamentary question about prison deaths were publicised, revealing that over two years there had been 70 suicides and six deaths ‘aggravated by lack of care.’

The report also included a special report on the deaths of *Black* people in police custody following the deaths of five Londoners within a few weeks: Jamie Stewart, Vincent Graham, Sullivan Barwani, Bharat Terasud and Edwin Carr. *In this period, ‘Black’ was used as an expression of solidarity and umbrella term to refer to people who were likely to face discrimination based on skin colour.  

In cases of various disasters – Zeebrugge, Kings Cross, Clapham, Hillsborough – INQUEST pushed for public inquiries whilst emphasising important role of inquests to establish unlawful killing verdicts.

The report also describes how in just two cases in last five years were police officers successfully prosecuted for killing prisoners (Sergeant Alwyn Sawyer convicted in 1985 for manslaughter of Henry Foley and the two officers convicted of murdering Owen Roberts – the Court of Appeals reduced the convictions to manslaughter).

Our 1989-90 Annual Report includes some general news about staffing changes, with Tony Ward leaving to take up a lectureship at the University of Leicester and Deborah Coles joining after working at a NACRO project and her involvement with Women in Prison. With a focus on suicides in prison the report states that there were 48 and 51 prison suicides in 1989 and 1990. INQUEST was involved in exposing the ‘scandal at Brixton Prison’ – known unofficially as the ‘“suicide capital” of the prison system’. Judge Tumin wrote a report into Suicides and Self-Injury in Prisons, published in December 1990, which confirmed that prisoners receive second-rate healthcare. In the report, Tumin adopted some specific INQUEST proposals e.g., 2.12: around contacting inmates’ GP if they are mentally disturbed, a suicide risk or have addiction problems. Tumin also recognised INQUEST’s criticisms about how families were treated following a death.

The 1989-1990 annual report also included about Tony Ward leaving INQUEST, written by Mick Ryan. There is also a letter from the family of Mark Mills, who died at age 23 in Bristol Prison, as well as quotes from ex-prisoners at Brixton Prison.

In this annual report from 1991, the Prisoners’ Health Bill is discussed, alongside a discussion of the abolition of the Prison Medical Service. There is a section about deaths in psychiatric hospitals and deaths at workplaces, as well as an update on the Hillsborough football disaster, following the verdicts of accidental death at the March 1991 inquest. The report also contains an article on the first meeting of the Inquest Lawyer’s Group and its aims.

This report from 1991-1992 includes a special bulletin on youth deaths in custody. INQUEST’s investigation into child deaths reveal patterns of ‘neglect and complacency’. It spotlights the INQUEST Lawyer’s Group parliamentary campaign demanding legal aid in the following circumstances:

  1. Institutional deaths – prison, police custody, psychiatric and special hospitals, local authority
  2. Deaths at work
  3. Deaths in circumstances giving rise to/corporate responsibility
  4. Contentious deaths e.g., dispute about whether a death was suicide or accidental
  5. Deaths involving the possibility of medical negligence

There is also a discussion of the new Criminal Justice Act 1991 (1 October 1992), which emphasised ‘rigorous’ sentences, the abolishing of remand for 15–16-year-olds, and the ‘centrality of custody in dealing with offenders.’

An article by Ian Bynoe from MIND looked at the future of high security hospital provision, specifically in light of the Ashford Inquiry. The committee made 90 recommendations and was so damaging to the credibility of NHS special hospital provisions that a review was ordered into best way to meet needs of patients requiring high security.

The Abolitionist 

Black and white front cover of The Abolitionist, abstract drawings of prisoners

Bulletin no.1 includes 'Dead but not buried', an article by London caseworker, David Leadbetter, about huge failings by coroners in the cases of James Davey and Matthew Paul (both police custody deaths) and Norther Worker, Mark Urbanowicz's piece on four deaths at Walton Prison, Liverpool in 1983.

Thanks to our volunteer Nik, we have tracked down INQUEST Bulletin No. 2 (March 1984) which was published between issues of The Abolitionist. This bulletin features a report on the 'astronomical' rates of suicides in Brixton Prison, naming it the 'HOUSE OF THE DEAD'. It also includes an update on Blair Peach's case by John Ure (Friends of Blair Peach). Alongside spotlighting other casework the bulletin advertises a fundraising dance for the Friends of James Davey Campaign in Coventry.  

The INQUEST Bulletin No. 3 includes an article entitled “The Jury Box” by Dave Leadbetter, who inspects the James Davey Inquest, in which the jury was misled by the coroner to return the verdict of accidental death. In addition, there is a report from Tony Ward on the inspection of the Ashford Remand Centre noting the addition of more verdicts related to ‘lack of care’. There is a statement from Shelia Heather-Hayes on the death of her son Jim Heather-Hayes at Ashford, who was put in solitary confinement before taking his own life. A discussion of the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill follows, including some of the debates on custody generated by INQUEST, and lastly there is a response from INQUEST to streamlining measures regarding the appointment of new coroners by the MCC and GLC. 

Pale blue front cover with a grave stone

INQUEST’s fourth bulletin, published in The Abolitionist in 1984, opens with a report on people arrested for drunkenness, describing three recent cases in which people died in police custody. The article advocates for medical and social detoxification centres that could aid people in staying sober. It also describes how the Liberal Party has adopted a policy on the reform of coroners’ courts.  

Black and white magazine cover, with a bird being injected inside a symbol of C1


INQUEST's fifth bulletin featured two articles: ‘Dangerous Driving’ and ‘Suicide in Prison’. The first explained how deaths resulting from police car accidents were on the rise. Tony Ward (one of INQUEST’s first workers) authored a piece about H.M. Chief Inspector of Prisons three reports on suicide prevention, which Ward was critical of. Speaking to the broader issue, Ward wrote: ‘we must continue to draw attention to prison suicides as one symptom of the immense human misery caused by imprisonment, most of it for no socially useful purpose.’


Black & white front cover of magazine

Bulletin no. 6 features an article on various deaths related to police sieges, which technically do not count as custody deaths. There is a report on causes of deaths in custody in 1984, and a curious deep dive into an inquest from 1849-1850 involving the death of 180 children due to a Cholera outbreak in Tooting that was reported on by none other than Charles Dickens. Bulletin no.6 explores relationship between prison staff, police and AIDS is also investigated. 

Reading List and Links

INQUEST Resources 

Please contact us if you are interested in purchasing a hard copy of the texts below

  • Barry Goldson and Deborah Coles, In the Care of the State? – Child deaths in penal custody in England & Wales (INQUEST, 2006)
  • Tony Ward, Death and Disorder (INQUEST, 1986)
External Resources