In this edition:

  • Twenty years of fighting for justice
  • Grenfell inquiry update
  • Families at the forefront
  • Harm in prison
  • Quest for police accountability
  • Obfuscation of deaths in immigration detention
  • Legal aid for inquests
  • INQUEST annual northern conference
  • Policy updates
  • Join the inquest team
  • Also this month…

Twenty years of fighting for justice: UFFC procession and conference

The United Families and Friends Campaign is a coalition of those affected by deaths in police, prison, immigration and mental health detention.

Interrogating State Violence, a conference to mark the 20th anniversary of UFFC will, take place on 26 October 2018 in London. INQUEST’s director, Deborah Coles will join a panel of speakers on Friday morning and will discuss the the Angiolini review one year on. Reserve your free place on Eventbrite.

The 20th annual UFFC procession will gather at Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, London from 12 noon on Saturday 27 October. The INQUEST team will be joining the procession and we hope to see you there.

Grenfell inquiry update

INQUEST have continued to raise concerns about the failure to put families at the heart of the Grenfell Inquiry and in particular the unsuitability of the inquiry venue. This is particularly important given that bereaved and survivors will start to give evidence in October.

Remy Mohamed, INQUEST’s Grenfell project coordinator appeared on Grenfell Speaks highlighting concerns with the venue, disclosure and the examination of witnesses, as explained in our letter to the Inquiry team. See the response from the Inquiry team here.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Remy said that the Inquiry will be undermined unless it earns the trust of those who need answers most.  

In an article by Seraphima Kennedy in the Guardian Deborah Coles said “This is a public inquiry of national importance, and getting to the truth of what happened is of benefit to us all. After all the promises of an inquiry process that would deliver truth and have bereaved and survivors at its heart as active participants, the reality is very different. Their voices continue to be silenced, their concerns ignored. Without the confidence and meaningful participation of those most affected, the inquiry will continue to lack legitimacy and will be flawed”.

Families at the forefront

  • The family of teenager Gaia Pope are appealing for people to create and share artwork to honour her memory, a year after her death. You can share your art for the online gallery on Twitter via #JusticeForGaia.
  • Tony Herbert, father of James, spoke at the Police Federation Custody Seminar explaining that a lack of accountability means that learning is not as effective as it should be.
  • Dr Sara Ryan spoke to Sky News about her fight for justice after her son, Connor Sparrowhawk, died and why urgent action is needed to prevent more deaths of people with learning disabilities and autism.
  • Marcia Rigg and Deborah Coles spoke at the National Police Chiefs Council and College of Policing conference on Mental Health and Policing, drawing attention to the failings of the police and mental health services in the death of Sean Rigg. 
  • Please support the National Memorial Family Fund to help support 4Ward Ever UK as a permanent resource for families affected by deaths and abuses in state custody.
  • The first annual Stop the Stigma – March for Mental Health in memory of Marc Cole took place in Falmouth on 2 September, with 100 protesters joining.

Stop the Stigma march - photo courtesy of Lisa Cole

Harm in prison

Three women died in prison within the space of ten days. Rebecca Roberts, Head of Policy at INQUEST, told the Independent “These figures are incredibly worrying and suggest that the numbers of deaths in women’s prisons are rising once again despite promises of action from the government.”

INQUEST responded to the HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on Styal prison: "Despite the inspector’s assessment criteria determining that Styal is a ‘healthy’ prison, the reality of women’s experiences points to quite the opposite. The rates of self-harm have doubled since their previous inspection and distress remains endemic.” 

The inquest into the self-inflicted death of Matthew Gray at HMP Norwich heard that concerns for his safety were not followed up and that there were routine failures in risk assessments.  

Professor Joe Sim (INQUEST Trustee) and Dr David Scott, writing in the Guardian, have highlighted violence and deaths experienced by prisoners. What is needed is a serious analysis of violence and health and safety for staff and prisoners, and for the media and politicians to stop uncritically parroting the Prison Officers Association’s line, which is not helping to defuse the prison crisis. In fact, it is making it worse.’

Quest for police accountability 

A Police Constable has been found guilty of misconduct for failing to watch over Leroy Junior Medford. Commenting in the Guardian we said,“A written warning for police misconduct undermines the seriousness of the concerns raised.”

The Crown Prosecution Service have announced they will take no action against police over death of Leon Briggs. Leon had mental ill health and died after being restrained by police in 2013. Deborah Coles was quoted in the Guardian “There is a systemic reluctance on the part of the CPS to allow a judge and jury to determine criminality in these cases, which begs questions as to whether the rule of law applies to police officers.”

The family of Mark Duggan have lost an appeal for a new inquest. In 2014, an inquest jury found Mark Duggan was lawfully killed by armed police in Tottenham, north London.

Obfuscation of deaths in immigration detention

The Home Office has been criticised for not routinely publishing data on the deaths of immigration detainees. Last year there were six deaths in immigration removal centres, four of which were self-inflicted.

Policy and Communications Officer, Lucy McKay, told the Independent “Transparency is an essential part of democratic accountability. It allows the public and civil society organisations to monitor the protection of detainees’ rights. The clandestine culture of the Home Office must change.”

INQUEST highlighted this issue in our submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry on Immigration Detention. We will share our evidence once it has been published by the Committee.

Legal aid for inquests

INQUEST and the INQUEST Lawyers Group submitted responses to the Ministry of Justice call for evidence on legal aid for inquests. Thank you to the families who also participated. The responses will help to inform new guidelines which will then be put out to public consultation.

Rebecca Roberts attended a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid. Harriet Harman MP, chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, reiterated the Committee’s recent recommendation for legal aid for families following a state related death and paid tribute to INQUEST and families who have long campaigned for this vital change.

In yet another illustration of the unjust inequality between bereaved families and the state at inquests, the families of the victims’ of Stephen Port have been forced to crowdfund for their legal representation. Deborah Coles told the BBC that parity of arms is in the public interest and is needed to help prevent future deaths.  

INQUEST Annual Northern Conference

Calling all inquest lawyers and practitioners based in and around the North of England. We warmly invite you to a half-day conference on 3 October held in the Manchester where we will look at issues concerning Inquest funding, practice and procedure. Find out more and book online.

Policy updates:

  • Seni’s law is making good progress and has passed through the second reading in the House of Lords. The next step is the Committee Stage in the House of Lords.
  • The Ministry of Justice have launched a consultation on an Independent Public Advocateto seek views on how best bereaved families can be supported to understand and engage in the investigation following a disaster.  
  • INQUEST have also submitted a response to the Ministry of Justice consultation on strengthening probation, drawing attention to the deaths of people on post-custody supervision.

Join the INQUEST team

INQUEST is seeking a Policy and Communications volunteer to join the busy team. Initially for a six-month placement, the role will support our communications and policy functions, working on various administration and research tasks. This is a really exciting opportunity to get involved in cutting edge work, including working on high profile campaigns and lobbying involving the national media, parliamentarians and senior policy makers. More information here.

Also this month:

  • On World Suicide Prevention Day, INQUEST was among 130 other signatories to a letter calling on the media to transform the way self-inflicted deaths are reported.
  • A jury found that a series of failures either contributed to or caused the death of Anne Roberts, who was detained in hospital. Her family were asked to pay more than £1,000 for the use of a room at the inquest. Selen Cavcav told the Guardian “Bereaved families must be at the centre of the inquest process.”
  • An online exhibition, Rightful Lives, was launched. The exhibits are both a celebration of talent and a call to address the injustice and inequalities faced by people with autism and learning disabilities.
  • Deborah Coles spoke at the Safe Ground symposium Matters of Life of DeathThe event also saw poignant contributions from spoken word artists and prisoners on the reality of the criminal justice system.
  • Did you miss Ruthie Gilmore, Beth Richie and Deborah Coles discussing prison abolition and gender, racial and economic justice? A video from the Abolitionist Futures conference is now available online.
  • ‘Dragged like a dead kangaroo’Guardian Australia discusses why the languages coroners use about deaths in custody matter, especially for advocates seeking justice.
  • INQUEST Casework Assistant, Christian Weaver, has been featured on BBC and in the Guardian in response to his video series The Law in 60 Seconds.


Thank you to all those who supported our BBC Radio 4 Appeal last month. You can still listen to the appeal by comedian and activist Mark Thomas, discussing our work and the experiences of Seni Lewis's family. 

On 7 October, Sarah Allen will be running the Budapest marathon in memory of Hannah Evans, who died aged 22 in a mental health unit. Sarah is raising funds for INQUEST to support other bereaved families. Please support her fundraising campaign on JustGiving.