12 October 2018

HM Inspectorate of Prisons have published a damning inspection report of HMP Chelmsford (on 12 October on their website). The prison has had the fifth highest number of self-inflicted deaths across the prison estate since 2010. There have been a total of 17 self-inflicted deaths, three deaths which await classification, and a further three non-self-inflicted deaths including of a man in his 20s.

The inspectorate found that too many recommendations from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) following deaths had not been implemented. They report, “Perhaps the most worrying issue was how men who were at risk of suicide and self-harm were managed.”  

The inquest into the death of Craig Royce in 2016, which concluded in December last year, found this issue was relevant to his death. The inquest into the death of Dean Saunders in 2016 was contributed to by neglect by the prison, with inadequate mental health assessment and multiple failings.

Dean’s death sparked the national Review of self-inflicted deaths in prison custody 2016 by the Ministry of Justice (published 11 October). Mark and Donna Saunders, Dean’s parents, gave evidence to Parliament’s committee on Human Rights for their inquiry on Mental Health and Prisons.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: “It is frankly inexcusable that so many recommendations from previous deaths at Chelmsford have not been implemented, particularly given the damning conclusions of recent inquests. The findings of this report will be heart-breaking for the families bereaved by deaths in Chelmsford, who have fought hard to ensure no one else suffers a preventable death.  

This prison has had ample opportunity to learn and change. As people continue to die, we must ask: what would it take for the prison and government to take seriously the safety of those in HMP Chelmsford? The solution is certainly not pepper spray or more inexperienced staff.

Prisons cannot keep people safe and ill considered, knee jerk reactions from ministers will only perpetuate instability and violence. What is required is a dramatic reduction in the prison population and investment in diversion and community alternatives.”


For further information, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or here

HMP Chelmsford inquest conclusions:

  • Jury concludes neglect contributed to death of Dean Saunders at HMP Chelmsford, 20 Jan 2017, link
  • Inquest into death at HMP Chelmsford finds more failings, as jury conclude risks were not properly assessed, 18 Dec 2017, link
  • Inquest finds inappriopriate care and support and inadequate staff contributed to death of Simon Gregory in HMP Chelmsford, 14th June 2011, link