The below media release is reshared from Bhatt Murphy solicitors. The inquest concluded with critical findings, see media coverage

18 July 2022

The inquest into the death of Lewis Powter is to be heard before HM Assistant Coroner Lorna Skinner at Cambridge and Peterborough Coroner’s Court in Huntingdon on 18 – 19 July 2022. Lewis Powter was 36 years old when he died on 10 May 2020 at his home in Sawston.

When he was 23 years old Lewis was given an indefinite sentence for public protection for GBH; his minimum term was set at just two years. Despite his tariff expiring in 2009 Lewis was not released until 2011. He was released and then recalled five times prior to his death.

Lewis had epilepsy and complex mental health needs including EUPD, PTSD, substance misuse and anxiety. In prison he was assessed as high risk of death by misadventure. On 18 January 2017 Lewis was assaulted by three Sodexo officers at HMP Peterborough. Those officers were subject to disciplinary proceedings leading to the dismissal of one officer, another officer receiving a final warning and a third officer receiving a warning. Since the assault Lewis experienced PTSD symptoms including hypervigilance.

In June 2019 Lewis was recalled after being out in the community for four days following being late back for his curfew due to cancelled public transport. The National Probation Service in a report stated that the recall was “inappropriate” but despite this Lewis was not released until November 2019. Upon his release he experienced extreme anxiety and fear about being recalled to prison.

In 2008 HM Prisons published a thematic report into IPP sentences which highlighted the impact of serving an IPP sentence on prisoners’ emotional and mental health, including self-harm. In 2008 the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health also published a report which highlighted the negative impact that serving an indeterminate sentence had on prisoners’ mental health and wellbeing. In 2012 the IPP sentence was abolished; but for those IPP prisoner like Lewis there was no change to their sentence.

Leah Biamonti, Lewis's mother, said: "The IPP sentence my son was serving at the time of his death was insufferable both for him but also the family who supported him, taking a great toll. His two children, growing up without him, were confused by his multiple recalls to prison.

Although released from prison for the first time in 2011, it felt as if it was just the beginning , never given the opportunity to adjust to anything that could be recognised as a semblance of a ‘normal’ life, before being recalled for rule breaking, to start the protracted cycle again of working towards another potential release. Each release characterised by a lack of practical support and , in my view, especially with early release’s, a lack of understanding of the extent to which the IPP sentence impacted on the mental and emotional health of individuals, extreme feelings of uncertainty, hopelessness, depression , and as we know now high rates of suicide in the IPP population, and in my sons case extreme and immobilising anxiety.

In our experience there are insufficient support systems in place to support those with complex needs as a result of, or exacerbated by an IPP sentence, relying heavily on family to help rebuild a future in the community. Although it no longer exists , the IPP sentence remains in place for many who are utterly stuck within a sick and broken system.

Release from prison is not the end, it is a time when knowledge and understanding of the impact of this inhumane sentence matters, and when the most intensive support is needed to aid both practical and psychological readjustment to life outside prison, and to support the prevention of what is currently an almost inevitable recall to prison."

Lucy McKay, spokesperson for the charity INQUEST, said: “The evidence on the harmful impacts of unlawful indefinite prison sentences is clear and well founded. Yet thousands of people are still languishing in prison with IPP sentences, or living in the community with the endless threat of recall for the most minor slip ups. IPP sentences were rightly abolished in 2012, so why in 2020 was Lewis still forced to live with this unjust sentence on his shoulders? We hope this inquest offers necessary scrutiny of the circumstances of his death, and considers ongoing issues for those in a similar position”


Leah Biamonti is represented in the forthcoming inquest by Jane Ryan of Bhatt Murphy solicitors and Stephen Clark of Garden Court chambers. For further information please contact: [email protected]