23rd January 2017


Beaconsfield Coroner’s Court, 29 Windsor End, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, HP9 2JJ

Starts on Monday 23 January 2017 at 10.00am and expected to last 10 days

An inquest into the death of a 29-year-old who suffered from mental ill health will open on Monday.

Jack Portland died on 27 December 2015 following a struggle with mental health problems and drug use. He was described by his family as a lively, outgoing and athletic person who began to experiment with drugs around the age of 14 and later developed an addiction.

In April 2015, Jack was arrested for shoplifting and spent time in prison at HMP Woodhill. Shortly after his release, he returned to prison at HMP Lewes and then spent time at two mental health facilities, The Dene in West Sussex, and The Whiteleaf Centre in Aylesbury.

Throughout this time his parents continued to visit him regularly and raised their concerns over his mental health to staff at the prison, the police, then Secretary of State Michael Gove and staff at the mental health facilities.

Following a period of unescorted leave from The Whiteleaf Centre on 27 December 2015, Jack failed to return from the centre and was found dead.

Merry Varney, the family’s solicitor, said: “We hope that the inquest will help answer the questions that Jack’s family have about his treatment at the various institutions before his death. The family and their lawyers will not be making any further comment until after the conclusion of the inquest.”
INQUEST has been working with the family of Jack Portland since April 2016. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Merry Varney and Benjamin Burrows from Leigh Day Solicitors and barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher from Doughty Street Chambers.

For further information, please contact Laura Smith (media) at [email protected] or 07811 218 621 or Selen Cavcav (caseworker) on 0207 263 1111.



Notes to editors

Background on HMP Woodhill: INQUEST have a broader interest in HMP Woodhill as we are supporting 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 in 2016 alone.



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.