20 May 1998

Thursday 21 May 1998, Reading Coroners Court, 7 Cheapside, Reading 11.30am

The inquest will take place on Thursday 21 May into the death of a 20-year-old black prisoner Elliot Mitchell who was found hanging from cell bars on 26 February 1998.

Police arrested Elliot Mitchell in November 1997 on a drug-related charge. The police filled out a police exceptional risk form warning that he had attempted to self-harm whilst in their custody which came with him into Reading prison. He was remanded to Reading prison on 27 November 1997. Whilst there he made an attempt to hang himself and also threatened to kill himself using glass and was assessed as being a suicide risk.

He was located on the Health Care Centre for observation where on the 26 February he was observed banging and kicking the sink in his cell. He was removed from his cell and taken to the segregation block and placed alone in a cell. On the evening of 26th February he was found hanging from the bars of his cell window in the segregation unit.

INQUEST have arranged for Elliot’s mother to be represented at the inquest by barrister Danny Friedman who is working without the benefit of resources, unlike the prison service who are represented out of public funds.

INQUEST is concerned about the decision to place a clearly distressed young man with a history of self-harm in the segregation unit. We have long held criticisms of the use of isolation and punishment of prisoners who are clearly in psychological distress.

This is a case which we will be bringing to the attention of H M Chief Inspector of Prison’s Sir David Ramsbotham who is currently carrying out a Thematic Review of Suicide and Self- Harm in Prison.

So far in 1998 there have been 35 self-inflicted deaths in prison of which 17 have been of prisoners on remand or unsentenced and 5 of under 21 year olds.

NB: Contrary to an agreement with the Prison Service Elliot’s mother was given no information INQUEST. There have been no deaths in Reading since 1992. Two weeks after Elliot died another young man 18 year old Ben Mills was found hanging in his cell. His inquest takes place on the same day at 10.00am.