12 January 2018

Before HM Senior Coroner for West Yorkshire David Hinchliff
Sitting at Wakefield Coroner’s Court
71 A Northgate, Wakefield, West Yorkshire WF1 3BX

Opens 15 January 2018 at 10.00 am- expected to run for 3-4 weeks.

Emily Hartley was only 21 years old when she was found dead in HMP New Hall, Wakefield on 23 April 2016.  In May 2015 she was remanded into custody after she set fire to herself, her bed and curtains. This was her first time in prison. 

Emily had a history of serious mental ill health including self-harm, suicide attempts and drug addiction. She had been admitted to mental health units on numerous occasions in the past. In August 2015, following her arrest the court decided to bail Emily from New Hall to a bail hostel rather than transfer her to a secure hospital.  Whilst in the hostel she began taking drugs again.  In November 2015 she was sentenced to over two years imprisonment for arson and returned to New Hall.

Emily was monitored under the suicide and self-harm management processes known as ACCT, which meant that she had to be observed at regular intervals. However, she continued to self-harm and told staff on numerous occasions that she wanted to end her own life. She asked to be moved to a different part of the prison, complaining that staff were not listening to her and that she was being bullied. Disciplinary procedures were often used to deal with her behaviour.  On the day she died, Emily phoned her mother explaining that she was feeling manic and that no one was checking on her for hours at a time, despite her being on twice hourly observations.

Emily took her own life whilst in the exercise yard but was only found two and half hours later. The inquest into her death will seek to explore the following issues:

  • The adequacy of suicide and self-harm risk assessments (ACCT process)
  • The use of disciplinary processes as punishment for her behaviour
  • The prison’s lack of compliance with the ACCT observation process.

Emily’s was one of four deaths at HMP New Hall in 2016, three of which were self-inflicted and one not yet classified. Her death came a month after the self-inflicted death of Lynsey Bartley, 29. In October 2017 there was a further self-inflicted death in the prison.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:

“Emily was the youngest of 12 women to take her own life in prison in 2016. Just like the many women who died before her she should never have been in prison in the first place. This inquest must scrutinise her death and how such a vulnerable young woman was able to die whilst in the care of the state.”



For further information, please contact Lucy McKay - details here  

A photo of Emily is available on request. INQUEST plan to share comments from the family at the conclusion of the INQUEST. Please note your interest to be kept up to date.

INQUEST has been working with the family of Emily Hartley since her death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Ruth Bundey of Harrison Bundey Solicitors.

  • 2016 was the deadliest year in women’s prisons for over a decade. There were 22 deaths, at least 12 of which were self-inflicted deaths. More info here.
  • Deaths in women’s prisons are a priority area of work for INQUEST. More information and recent reports available here.
  • Recent inquests on the deaths of women in prison with mental ill health include the inquest of Sarah Reed and Caroline Hunt.