3 November 2017

Before HM Coroner Maria Voisin

Avon Coroner's Court
The Courthouse, Old Weston Road,
North Somerset, BS48 1UL

Opens 10am, 6 November – expected to close 24 November

UPDATE 9 November 2017: This inquest was unexpectedly adjourned, to be reopened at a future date. 

Jessica Whithurch, died on 25 May last year in HMP Eastwood park, two days after being found with a ligature in her cell in HMP Eastwood Park. Aged 31 when she died, Jessica had a complex background, with mental ill health and addiction issues.

Last year saw the highest number of self-inflicted deaths in women’s prisons in over a decade. Jessica’s was the second of three self-inflicted deaths in Eastwood Park in 2016, and one of seven deaths in total. The inquest will explore the circumstances surrounding her death.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:
“It is essential that this inquest provides proper scrutiny to the circumstances surrounding Jessica’s death, and provides her family with answers. But even prior to the proceedings, the key question is clear. Why was a vulnerable young woman like Jessica ever in prison in the first place? The spike in deaths in women’s prisons last year is yet more evidence that prisons should not and cannot be the default response to women who need support.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

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

  • INQUEST has been working with the family of Jessica Whitchurch since her death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Clare Richardson of Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors and Maria Roche from Doughty Street Chambers.
     
  • Jessica’s family spoke to the BBC about her life in March. You can read the interview here.
     
  • A number of reports published earlier this year examined the spike in women’s deaths. More info here.
     
  • The Corston report by Baroness Jean Corston was a review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system and was published in 2007. It described ‘the need for a distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach’ to women in the criminal justice system. The majority of her recommendations are still outstanding.