27th July 2017

Today the Ministry of Justice published the latest Safety in Custody Statistics, finding record levels of self-harm in prisons in England and Wales and a slight decline in self-inflicted deaths in prison after the levels reached record highs last year.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:

“Last year the number of self-inflicted deaths in prisons reached a record high, with the rate more than doubling since 2013. While it is positive that the shameful death toll has declined slightly for the first time since 2013, we urge government not to become complacent. Levels of self-harm in prisons continue to rise and it is clear from these figures that prisons still struggle to ensure the safety and protection of those in their care.

Recent inquest findings are all too familiar, neglect and failures in care continue to contribute to many avoidable deaths. This is a prison system still very much in crisis, which will not change until bold and definitive action is taken. The policy responses from the new Justice Secretary have been depressingly familiar, more prison places and more staff. This is a tried and tested formula that has not worked in the past and will not work in the future. We urge David Lidington and the government to learn from the abject failures of the past and pursue a radical change of direction: invest in mental health and social services, tackle sentencing policy and promote alternatives to custody which will better protect everyone, including the victims of crime.  

Above all, he must take seriously the fact that the recommendations made by prison watchdogs, official investigations and inquests have been systematically and scandalously ignored.  Until that is rectified, and robust systems of democratic accountability are put in place, then deaths and self-harm will continue.”

Recent inquest conclusions:

• Jury concludes unnecessary delays and failures in care contributed to death of Sarah Reed at Holloway prison, with the jury finding she did not receive adequate treatment for her high levels of distress at HMP Holloway. (20 July)

• Jury finds neglect at HMP Liverpool contributed to the death of Ned O’Donnell (13 July)

• Inquest finds that the death of Tom Morris at HMP Woodhill could have been avoided, with the jury finding that prison authorities failed to take all reasonable precaution. (6 July)

• Jury finds a series of failings at HMP Bristol caused the death of Callum Smith. (25 May)

• Jury finds multiple serious failings in care of Caroline Ann Hunt at HMP Foston Hall. (25 May)

• Jury finds that failure by HMP Woodhill to learn from previous suicides caused the death by neglect of Daniel Dunkley. (28 April)

• Inquest into death of 22-year-old Daryl Hargrave at HMP Winchester finds serious failings amounting to neglect. (7 April)

• Jury concludes neglect contributed to the death of Dean Saunders at HMP Chelmsford. (January)



For further information, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected]