14 November 1997

The inquest into the death of Dennis Stevens, a 29 year old black prisoner who was found dead in a special cell in the segregation unit in HMP Dartmoor on 18 October 1995 was today adjourned after four and half weeks. The coroner ruled that he did not consider there was sufficient evidence for the jury to consider a verdict of unlawful killing. He went on to rule that in his view the evidence was not adequate to leave the jury any verdict other than open. He proposed to direct the jury as a matter of law simply to consider that single verdict.

Following this ruling the family’s counsel put the coroner on notice of their decision to seek to challenge his ruling by way of judicial review and asked that he adjourn the inquest pending the outcome of these proceedings. Counsel for all other parties in the inquest - the Prison Service, the Prison Officers Association and the Prison doctor supported this request and the coroner therefore adjourned the inquest.

The family’s lawyers believe his decision to be based on confused analysis of the medical evidence and of the circumstances of Dennis's death. The medical evidence showed quite clearly that but for the restraint applied on Dennis Stevens culminating in him being in a body belt for 24 hours, he would not have died.