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Families of suicide victims lose judicial review

Families of suicide victims lose judicial review over their prison deaths

The relatives of two inmates who committed suicide in HMP Woodhill last July have lost their English High Court case calling for action to protect prisoners. 

The relatives claimed that the prison governor had not compiled fully with Prison Service Instructions (PSIs) which cover management of prisoners at risk of harm to themselves.  Since May 2013 18 prisoners have died by suicide at HMP Woodhill, a rate that the relatives argued was exceptionally high.

The court did not accept that the prison governor and the justice secretary had failed to comply with Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, which protects the right to life.  The court found that the prison had sensible and satisfactory policies in place to protect prisoners.  However it also held that

“…on occasions, operational errors have been made by staff in dealing with those at risk of suicide.”

Inquest, a charity that supports the relatives of people who die in custody, intervened in the judicial review.  Their director said that the judgment was ‘disappointing’ adding

“The deplorable situation at HMP Woodhill is just one stark example of a much wider national problem.  The number of self-inflicted deaths occurring in prisons in England and Wales is currently at record levels.”

Click here for more commentary from Inquest.  Read The Guardian’s article here.

Prisoners' Rights, Suicide