25 April 2019

The Ministry of Justice has today (25 April 2019) released the latest Safety in Custody statistics showing increases in deaths and self-harm in prison.

The key statistics include;
  • In the 12 months to March 2019 there were 317 deaths in prison, up from 299 the previous year. Of these, 87 were self-inflicted deaths, up from 73 in the previous year.
  • In women’s prisons, there were four self-inflicted deaths, up from one death in the previous 12 months.
  • Recorded incidents of self-harm in prison have more than doubled in ten years from 25,234 incidents in 2008 to 52,598 in 2018.
  • There are 152 recorded incidents of self-harm in prison every day and levels of self-harm in the 12 months to December 2018 have reached a new record high, a rise of 25%. Self-harm incidents requiring hospital attendance are also at a record high and have increased by 5%.
Analysis of INQUEST casework files and coroner’s reports shows that recent inquests on deaths in prison reveal repeated and systemic failings around self-harm and suicide risk management (known as ACCT procedures), drug prescribing processes, communication, record keeping, inadequate healthcare and procedural failures and delays.

There were 164 deaths which the Ministry of Justice describe as due to “natural causes”. INQUEST casework and monitoring shows that an unacceptable number of so called “natural cause” deaths are in fact the result of poor healthcare in prison. This was echoed Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee in November 2018 who reported that ‘so-called natural cause deaths too often reflect serious lapses in care’. 
Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: "Every four days, a person in prison takes their own life. Levels of distress have never been higher with more than 152 recorded incidents of self-harm in prison every day.

The Government have long been on notice about the perilous state of our prisons. Yet, life saving recommendations from inquests and oversight bodies are systematically ignored. That the historically high numbers of deaths are allowed to continue is a national scandal.

Prison safety cannot be resolved by framing it as a drugs problem or weaponising staff through with PAVA spray. Punitive responses have not worked and will not work. Bold and decisive action is needed to tackle sentencing policy; reducing prison numbers; and redirecting resources to community services.”


For further information please contact Lucy McKay and Sarah Uncles on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected] [email protected]

INQUEST publishes rolling statistics on deaths in prison, available here. These statistics are reported by calendar year, from now to 1990.

Below are summaries of deaths in prison inquests from our website from Jan 2018 to April 2019:
Emily Hartley: 21, self-inflicted death on 23 April 2016. Inquest concluded that there were ACCT failures, a lack of staff professionalism and an absence of meaningful checks in the lead up to her death.  MEDIA RELEASE.

Gareth McCarroll: 41, self-inflicted death on 1 October 2016 - less than 48 hours after being admitted to HMP Altcourse. The inquest jury concluded that the failure to raise an ACCT and the failure to perform adequate checks were contributing factors to his death. MEDIA RELEASE

Jessica Whitchurch: 31, self-inflicted death on 20 May 2016 at HMP Eastwood Park. Inquest jury concluded ACCT failures, inadequate communication between prison and healthcare staff and prison organisational failures contributed to her death. MEDIA RELEASE.

Matthew Gray: 32, self-inflicted death on 22 March 2017 at HMP Norwich. Inquest highlighted severe lack of time and resources available to prison staff, leading to Matthew being unprotected from known risks to himself and from others. MEDIA RELEASE

Michael Forster: 26, self-inflicted death on 19 November 2016 from injuries sustained at HMP Leicester. Inquest concluded that neglect and several care failings contributed to his death. MEDIA RELEASE.

Michal Netyks: 35, a Polish immigration detainee who died from self-inflicted injuries after being served deportation papers on the day he was due to be released from G4S run HMP Altcourse. MEDIA RELEASE.

Natasha Chin: 39, died less than 36 hours after entering Sodexo run HMP Bronzefield on 19 July 2016. Inquest jury concluded her death was caused by healthcare failures and contributed to by neglect. MEDIA RELEASE.

Nicola Jayne Lawrence: 38, non-self-inflicted death on 24 September 2016. Inquest concluded that prison officers lacked training to recognise and deal with prisoners suffering from drug toxicity, and communication between prison and health care staff was inadequate. MEDIA RELEASE.

Sarah ‘Maria’ Burke: 48, self-inflicted death on 11 November 2016 – eight days after arriving at HMP Drake Hall. Inquest jury identified a considerable delay in locating Maria after she had gone missing as a possible causative factor in her death. Also noted failings in the ACCT processes, mental health care and information recording. MEDIA RELEASE.

Tommy Nicol: 37, IPP prisoner who died on 25 September 2015 from self-inflicted injuries sustained at HMP The Mount. The inquest jury recorded no critical findings, despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary. MEDIA RELEASE.

Ryan Harvey: 23, self-inflicted death. He died on 8 May 2015, after he was found hanging in his cell in HMP Woodhill five days prior. The inquest into his death has concluded finding numerous failings contributed to his death. Ryan’s was the eighth in a series of 18 self-inflicted deaths at HMP Woodhill over a three-year period (2013-2016), and the fourth on the induction wing. MEDIA RELEASE.

Tyrone Givans: 32, self-inflicted death at HMP Pentonville on 26 February 2018. He was profoundly deaf and had been at the prison for less than three weeks, for the most part without any access to hearing aids. The inquest concluded finding numerous system and individual failures contributed to his death. MEDIA RELEASE.

Michael Alexander Judge: 32, self-inflicted death on 16 March 2016. The inquest highlighted numerous failings at HMP Swaleside relating to ACCT processes which contributed to his death. MEDIA RELEASE.

Sean McCann: 32, self-inflicted death at Sodexo run HMP Peterborough on 13 March 2016. In a damning verdict the jury said staff failed to properly assess his mental health, officers were not sufficiently trained and staff failed to take the cell with the ‘ligature point’ out of use. The jury ruled that his death was an ‘accident’ contributed to by neglect. MEDIA RELEASE.

Annabella Landsberg: 45, died on 6 September 2017 as result of complications arising from Type 2 diabetes. The inquest identified a catalogue of serious failures in HMP Peterborough, a private prison run by Sodexo. The inquest jury found “failings on the part of the prison, healthcare staff, GPs and custody officers that contributed” to her death. MEDIA RELEASE.