28th November 2016

The High Court today (24 Nov 2016) gave permission for the families of two men who took their own lives in HMP Woodhill to proceed with legal action to force the prison to take steps to prevent further deaths.

HMP Woodhill has seen the highest number of self-inflicted deaths of any prison in England and Wales over the past two years. A total of 17 men have taken their own lives in the prison since May 2013 - six so far this year.

The case was brought by relatives of Ian Brown, who took his own life at HMP Woodhill on 19 July 2015 and Daniel Dunkley, who was found hanging in his cell on 29 July 2016 and died four days later in hospital.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, which has worked with the families of the two men, said: “We see repeated and avoidable failures that result in human tragedies. Time and again the Ministry of Justice says that ‘lessons will be learned’ but there is no system to ensure that recommendations are carried out that could prevent yet more pain and loss of life.”

The High Court gave permission for family members to proceed with their claim against the governor of the prison and the secretary of state for justice, arguing that they have acted unlawfully by failing to take appropriate steps to reduce the rate of suicide there. The claimants are asking the court to order the defendants to take action to try to prevent further suicides.

In their summary grounds of resistance to the judicial review application, the defendants claimed appropriate steps had been taken and that the claim was misconceived and unarguable. In granting permission, Mr Justice Lavender said that reports into the prison revealed “repeated failure, despite earlier recommendations, to implement applicable policies” and said this could not be dismissed as “operational failures”.

INQUEST has been working with the family of Ian Brown since July 2015 and with the family of Daniel Dunkley since August 2016. The claimants are represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Jo Eggleton of Deighton Pierce Glynn and Adam Straw of Doughty Street Chambers.


Notes to editors:

More information about this claim is available here: http://www.dpglaw.co.uk/jr-claim-issued-challenging-alarmingly-high-rate-self-inflicted-deaths-woodhill-prison/

For further information, please contact: [email protected].

INQUEST provides specialist advice on deaths in custody or detention or involving state failures in England and Wales. This includes a death in prison, in police custody or following police contact, in immigration detention or psychiatric care. INQUEST's policy and parliamentary work is informed by its casework and we work to ensure that the collective experiences of bereaved people underpin that work. Its overall aim is to secure an investigative process that treats bereaved families with dignity and respect; ensures accountability and disseminates the lessons learned from the investigation process in order to prevent further deaths.

Please refer to INQUEST the organisation in all capital letters in order to distinguish it from the legal hearing.