30 April 2018

Before HM Coroner Jonathan Leach
Wakefield Coroner’s Court, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 3BS

Begins on 1 May 2018 and expected to last for 3 weeks

Nicola Lawrence, one of 3 siblings, was described by her mother as a very loving and caring daughter. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in her early twenties. She developed PTSD after the death of her partner. She suffered from anxiety and struggled with mental ill health. She also struggled with addiction to drugs. Despite her family desperately trying to access therapeutic support and help with drug rehabilitation, the right kind of support was never available to her. Nicola ended up in the criminal justice system like many other women before her. When she died in September 2016, she was serving a term of 28 days imprisonment for theft. She had been recalled to the prison after a period in a probation hostel. 

During her initial health screening, Nicola told the staff about her MS and about having a broken wrist and her dependence on drugs. She also told the staff about a suicide attempt at the beginning of the year. The prison doctor prescribed Nicola medications to manage her various health needs. In addition to her usual medications, Nicola was prescribed methadone. This was the first occasion on which Nicola had a prescription for methadone. A few days later she was also placed under a suicide and self-harm management programme, which was stopped 2 days before her death.   

At 21.30 on the 23rd September, officers saw Nicola lying on the floor of her cell and snoring loudly.  They say she raised her arm in response to requests for her to get on to her bed, but otherwise remained on the floor. The staff decided to check on her at regular intervals, noting each time that she remained on the floor snoring. At 11.30 pm, they noticed that Ms. Lawrence was no longer responding. They entered her cell and called for emergency assistance. Sadly, it was too late, and she could not be saved. 

Nicola’s family hope the inquest will address the following issues:

  • Whether the prescribed medications given to Nicola were a contributory factor in her death;
  • The extent to which, if at all, methadone in addition to the prescribed medications contributed to her death;
  • The position in which Nicola was found on the floor of her cell;
  • The response of staff on 23 September and whether an earlier intervention could have saved Nicola’s life.

Christine Lawrence, mother of Nicola Jayne Lawrence said: “The last year and seven months have been extremely difficult for us as a family trying to get to the truth of what happened to Nicola and why she died in a prison which should have kept her safe. We miss her deeply. We hope that the inquest will provide a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to her death and any failings are highlighted so that nobody else dies in similar circumstances”.
Deborah Coles, Executive Director of INQUEST said: Nicola was one of 10 women who died in New Hall in the last 8 years. Questions must be asked about why she was sent to prison for 28 days with poor physical and mental health? Her risk had been identified by the prison and this inquest must scrutinise the treatment and care she received”.



For further information, interview requests and to note your interest, please contact Sarah Uncles on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected].

INQUEST has been working with Nicola’s family since October 2016.  The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Kulvinder Gill of Howells Solicitors and Maria Roche of Doughty Street Chambers. The Ministry of Justice and Care UK will be separately represented at this inquest. 

  • The opening of this inquest coincides with the launch of INQUEST’s report, Still Dying on the Inside, which documents the deaths of 93 women in the eleven-year period following the Corston review.