27 May 1998

Southend Coroners Court Sitting at Court 5, Southend Court House, Victoria Avenue, Southend. 10.00am

The inquest will take place on Wednesday 27 May into the death of Josie O’Dwyer who died on 26 October 1997 in the health care centre of Bullwood Hall prison while serving a life sentence for murder. She was 41 years old. The inquest is expected to last for two days.

There are a number of issues of concern surrounding Josie’s death that her family wants explored at the inquest. Josie had an appalling history of serious self-harm and it needs to be established what observation, support and counselling she received while in the health care centre. It appears that despite Josie’s serious history of self-harm she was not on any special 15 minute ‘suicide watch’.

There are also concerns about the level and combination of her medication. Her family is also anxious to establish the whereabouts of the key to Josie’s cell and whether earlier intervention could have saved her life. Staff do not carry keys with them at night for security reasons even on the health care centre which holds woman at serious risk of suicide and self-injury.

INQUEST is concerned about the issues Josie’s death raises about the treatment of vulnerable women within the Prison system and will be drawing this case to the attention of H M Chief Inspector Of Prisons Sir David Ramsbotham who is carrying out a Thematic Review Of Suicide and Self Harm In Prison.

INQUEST has arranged for barrister Patrick Roach to represent the family at the inquest. He is working without the benefit of resources, as legal aid is not available for representation at inquests. The Prison Service is represented out of public funds. NB: In 1997 there were 71 self-inflicted deaths in prison of which 3 were women. There have been 36 self-inflicted deaths in 1998.