15th November 2013

Tuesday 19 November 2013 at 10 am
Before HM Coroner for Surrey Richard Travers
Sitting at Coroner’s Court, Civic Offices, Gloucester Square, Woking, Surrey GU21 6YL

Helen Waight was 33 years old and had five young children when she died at HMP Bronzefield on 7 March 2011.  Her death was the second of two young women’s deaths at this institution within just 10 months of each other.  Both deaths raise serious concerns about the provision of healthcare and the treatment and management of drug dependency at HMP Bronzefield, a private prison run by Sodexo. 

Helen’s family hope the inquest will address the following issues:

  • The adequacy of the tests carried out prior to the commencement of the detoxification regime and the quality of record keeping;
  • The treatment and management of Helen’s drug dependency at HMP Bronzefield and the level of training of GPs working at the prison;
  • The local policies in place at HMP Bronzefield in relation to drug dependency management;
  • The response of healthcare and discipline staff to reports of Helen’s ill health on the morning of 7 March 2011, including the decision to dispense Helen methadone on 7 March 2011 when she was unwell;
  • The emergency response on 7 March 2011.

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“This second death of a young mother in Bronzefield prison is a tragic reminder of the urgent need for a new approach to the treatment of women in conflict with the law. While the inquest should provide some answers for Helen’s family, it cannot address fundamental failings in the justice system for women. Rather than send her to prison which is expensive, damaging and dangerous, it should have been possible to address the reasons behind her offending through community based alternatives.”

Helen’s family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Jasmine Chadha and Megan Phillips of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors and Alison Gerry of Doughty Street Chambers.


Notes to editors:

  1. Helen Waight’s death is included as a case study in INQUEST’s report ‘Preventing the deaths of women in prison: the need for an alternative approach’ published earlier this year.
  2. Helen Waight was the second woman to die at HMP Bronzefield in a ten month period. The inquest into the death of Sarah Higgins, the first woman to die, concluded recently, with a jury finding serious failings by the prisonhad contributed to her death.