26th February 2014

10am, Thursday 27 February 2014
Milton Keynes Coroner’s Court, Civic Offices, 1 Saxon Gate East, Central Milton Keynes MK9 3EJ
Before Coroner Tom Osborne

30 year old Kevin Scarlett was found hanging in his cell at HMP Woodhill on 22 May 2013.  The inquest into his death will be heard before a jury at Milton Keynes Coroner’s Court from 27 February.  The hearing is listed for two days. 

Kevin had a long history of mental health problems which started in his teens following the traumatic suicide of his father.  He was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia and had been in and out of mental health care throughout his life.  

At the time Kevin was remanded to HMP Woodhill on 14 January 2013, his family believed he was in urgent need of mental health care.  Throughout the period of his detention, he repeatedly and frequently self harmed and he made a serious suicide attempt.  Despite being placed on self harm and suicide monitoring, he was moved on his own into a double cell and was placed on a basic regime in response to his challenging and so called ‘negative behaviour’. 

On the 21 May Kevin stated to prison staff that he had thoughts of hanging himself.  On the 22 May, Kevin was found in his cell suspended by a sheet tied to the bed frame of the top bunk.

Kevin’s death was one of four self inflicted deaths that occurred at HMP Woodhill in 2013.  This was the second highest number of suicides of any prison in England and Wales during 2013.  The further self inflicted death of David Hunter occurred on 26 May 2013, just four days after Kevin’s death.

Kevin’s family hope that the inquest will be able to address the serious questions and concerns they have about the care and treatment Kevin received from Woodhill in the period before his death, including:

  • the adequacy of the prison’s response and management of Kevin’s risks and mental health needs;
  • why, despite his recognised risk of self harm and suicide, Kevin was placed alone in a double cell with access to a ligature point;
  • the justification in placing Kevin on a ‘basic regime’ and whether the increased risk posed by this decision was properly considered;
  • why, on an occasion when Kevin overdosed on toxic levels of paracetamol, prison staff disregarded the instructions of the local hospital and the prison doctor to send him to hospital as an emergency;
  • the adequacy of the prison’s response when Kevin was found hanging in his cell, including the failure to use an emergency code when calling for assistance.  

INQUEST has been working with the family of Kevin Scarlett since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Jo Eggleton from Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors and barrister Nick Armstrong of Matrix chambers.


Notes to editors:

  1. Self-inflicted deaths at HMP Woodhill since 2011:

Stephen Farrar 12/12/2013
Sean Brock 10/11/2013
David Hunter 26/05/2013
Kevin Scarlet 22/05/2013
Rimvydas Liorancas 28/01/2012
Martin Walker 27/12/2011

  1. An inspection report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons following an unannounced inspection of HMP Woodhill in 2012 identified concerns around risk assessments, the high use of force and the considerable increase of self harm incidents over the previous 12 month period.
  2. The Independent Monitoring Board’s annual report on HMP Woodhill 2011/12also found shortcomings around the delivery of healthcare due to lack of staffing; concerns about the longstanding shortfall of health care staff and in particular concerns about the staffing of mental health in-reach services.  The report comments on the rapid deterioration of the delivery of primary and secondary mental health care to prisoners.