SAVE THE DATE: On 26 October The United Families and Friends Campaign will be holding their annual rally and silent procession in memory of those who have died in state care or custody. Meet at Trafalgar Square in central London at 12 noon.

In this edition:


INQUEST has exposed the failure of the Ministry of Justice’s Ten Prisons Project, revealing that the number of deaths in the 10 prisons has increased by 20 percent, undermining government claims of the ‘success’ of the £10m project to reduce violence and improve safety in the prisons. We told the Guardian:

“The focus was reducing violence and criminality, with no consideration of the underlying issues which foster these behaviours in prison. This was a fundamentally flawed vanity project which resulted in an increased number of people dying. Ministers have been largely silent on this issue."

Research by the Guardian has found that two in five prisoners who died in segregation in the past six years were known to be at risk of self harm and suicide at the time of their deaths. This was despite guidelines by the Prison Service advising that prisoners subject to suicide and self-harm prevention procedures should be held in segregation units only in “exceptional circumstances”. In response to this research, Rebecca Roberts, Head of Policy at INQUEST said:

“Prisons are damaging and dehumanising environments that exacerbate mental ill-health. Too often extreme symptoms of distress are treated as a disciplinary matter, with segregation presented as the response. This is inappropriate for people in need of urgent care and is clearly putting lives at risk.”

Immigration detention and the hostile environment

The mother of Dexter Bristol, a Windrush migrant who died in 2018 after being placed under huge stress to prove his settled status, has fought for a second inquest to question the role of the Home Office. Please consider donating to this crowdfunder to ensure she has legal representation.

The inquest into the death of immigration detainee Bai Bai Ahmed Kabia concluded that his death could have been prevented. Selen Cavcav, Senior Caseworker at INQUEST said: “Ahmed’s preventable death exposes not only the dismissive culture of healthcare staff in immigration removal centres, but also the human cost of indefinite detention".

A week after this critical conclusion, INQUEST were saddened to hear of a death of another detainee at the same centre, Oscar Okwurime, who was scheduled to be deported on a charter flight five days later. Lucy McKay, Policy and Communications Officer at INQUEST, told the Independent,“Bereaved families and their legal teams face long and complex battles to get to the truth of what happened in these cases, and are constantly faced with a response of denial, delay and obfuscation from the Home Office.”

The Morning Star have found a G4S guard, whose racism was exposed following his involvement in the death of Jimmy Mubenga, is still employed in private security. This new revelation is evidence of the lack of oversight for privately employed security.

Deaths in police custody

The Independent Office for Police Conduct has released their annual statistics on deaths during or following police contact. The majority of deaths within this period involved people with mental ill health, or who were intoxicated or had known alcohol and/or drug dependencies. INQUEST told the Guardian and Independent:

"The Angiolini review made pragmatic recommendations to ensure safer responses to people with mental ill health and addictions. Two years on, the government reports little progress in these areas"

The statistics also highlighted that there were 42 road traffic fatalities, an increase of 13 on last year and the highest figure in the past decade. Deborah Coles, INQUEST Director, told the Daily Mail"These shocking figures on road traffic fatalities raise questions about whether the dangerous tactic of pursuit is being used proportionately or responsibly. Government and Police Fed rhetoric on pursuit too often ignores the risk to life.”

A recent High Court ruling has restricted the IOPC’s scope for assessing potential misconduct. The change has significant consequences and means that an officer’s conduct in using force cannot be judged against objective professional standards, only against their honestly held belief. This ruling was made following an appeal by a police officer to challenge misconduct proceedings brought against them for fatally shooting Jermaine Baker in 2015. More here.

Mental health

The inquest into the death of Shannon Quinn, 24, found that neglect and gross failings by a mental health unit were a direct contributory factor in her death. Her mother Anne said it was hard to essentially hear the coroner say that with the right care Shannon would be alive today. INQUEST commented on the failings identified at the inquest in the Observer:

"Young women with multiple needs are too often failed by the public services meant to keep them safe. Care involving multiple agencies is disjointed and there is woefully lacking provision for local specialist services. The devastation this causes is compounded by the fact that internal investigations are often poor, and learning from previous deaths is often missed, resulting in yet more preventable harm.”

National Mikey Powell Memorial Family Fund

INQUEST is proud to be a partner of the National Mikey Powell Memorial Family Fund. The fund will to be the first permanent national resource of its kind for those affected by deaths in custody, making small grants available for families and their campaign groups across the UK to provide practical domestic assistance, to further the work of their own campaigns or to assist them in engaging in other local, regional or national campaigns, events and initiatives.

This fund will make a real difference for families and their campaign groups that need financial support during the often long struggles for justice lasting for decades in many cases. Find out more about the fund and how to set up a regular donatioonline.


In August, we were all very sad to see Vic McNally, one of our Senior Caseworkers, leave INQUEST. Vic was with the organisation for 9 years; her skills combined an outstanding ability to support and advise families, and a brilliance in strategic policy work, particularly around policing and mental health. We wish her the best of luck in her new job where she continues to work for systemic change.

This month, we were pleased to welcome Theo Richardson-Gool as our new Caseworker. Theo has several years’ experience working as a human rights paralegal for Hodge Jones & Allen and Bindmans, where he focused on inquest work.

In other news:

  • Many thanks to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Bromley Trust for each awarding us a three year grant towards our policy, campaigning and Scotland work.  
  • Deborah Coles discussed issues around deaths in custody and detention with academics and activists at the Barcelona conference of the European Group for the Study of Deviance & Social Control.
  • INQUEST's Grenfell Project Coordinator, Remy Mohamed attended ‘Legal Perspectives on putting buildings right post Grenfell’ at the University of Oxford and gave a presentation about Article 2 of the Human Rights Act and the Grenfell Inquiry.

Upcoming events:

21-24 September - INQUEST is participating in the Crime and Policing thread at this year’s The World Transformed Festival in Brighton. Get your tickets and see more of the programme online.

26 September – Deborah Coles is joining Carl Cattermole in conversation on his book ‘The Survival Guide’ at the Wansteadtap in London. Reserve your tickets online.

24 October - Deborah Coles is delivering a seminar at the University of Essex about the work of INQUEST and our campaigns to prevent death and ill treatment in all forms of detention. More here.

Supporting INQUEST

Rachel is running the Ruby Half Marathon in memory of Sean Fitzgerald, and to raise money for INQUEST. Sean was fatally shot by police earlier this year. The run takes place on 27 October, which would have been his 32nd birthday. Check out JustGiving for further information.

Ellie and Isla are running Oxford Half Marathon for INQUEST in a few weeks. We wish them the best of luck! Please support their efforts and our ongoing work for truth, justice and accountability following state related deaths by donating online.