10th January 2014

Monday 13 January 2014 at 10am
Before HM Coroner for Surrey Richard Travers
Sitting at HG Wells Conference Centre, Church Street East, Woking, Surrey

Amy Friar was 24 years old when she died on 30 March 2011.   She was found hanging in her cell with a ligature attached to the heating pipes under the cell windows at HMP Downview.  Her daughter was 8 years old at the time of her death.

Amy had a long history of mental health problems and alcohol and drug addiction.  Her father took his own life when she was a child and she battled with depression from a very young age. Throughout the time Amy was at HMP Downview she was under the care of the mental health in-reach team.  A decision was made to start her on suicide and self harm monitoring after she was informed about the murder of her partner.  She was initially put on two hourly observations during the day and night. This was, however, later changed to night time observations only.  Concerns were raised regarding the lowering of the observations and a review meeting was arranged but sadly Amy was found dead before the meeting took place.

Shortly before she was found another prisoner raised concerns about Amy’s safety and asked a prison officer to check on her. The prison officer did so and asked if Amy wanted her observations to be increased. She said that she was fine and did not require additional observations.  Amy was later found suspended in her cell by the same prisoner who raised concerns. 

Her family hopes the inquest will address the following issues:

  • How adequate were the assessments of Amy's risk of self harm or suicide?
  • Did officers checking on Amy make a proper assessment of her mood, and was information about her risk noted and communicated?
  • Amy made allegations of bullying and threats made against her. How did the prison deal with these allegations?
  • How adequate was the emergency response?

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“This tragic death of a young mother again raises serious questions about the use of prison as punishment for women in conflict with the law. Amy was an extremely vulnerable young woman, with a history of mental health problems and drug addiction. While the inquest should provide some answers for her family, it cannot address the wider issue of prison as a suitable place for vulnerable women, and the lack of community-based alternatives.”

Amy’s family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Trudy Morgan of Hodge Jones and Allen solicitors and Philip Dayle of No.5 Barristers Chambers.


Notes to editors:

  1. Full background to deaths of women in prison can be found in INQUEST’s report ‘Preventing the deaths of women in prison: the need for an alternative approach’ published in June 2013.