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Inquest into death of Sarah Reed, found dead in her cell in HMP Holloway after an acute mental health crisis, opens Tuesday
Before HM Assistant Coroner Peter Thornton QC
Sitting at City of London Coroner's Court
Walbrook Wharf, Upper Thames Street, London EC4R 3TD
Opens 4 July 2017 at 10.00 am- expected to run for 2-3 weeks.
Note: Those who would like to attend have been asked to bring a photo ID with them
Sarah Reed, 32 died on 11 January 2016 while in the custody of HMP Holloway. Sarah had been remanded to HMP Holloway on 14 October 2015 following an alleged assault which took place whilst she was a sectioned patient at a mental health unit.
Sarah had been suffering from serious mental ill health since the death of her six-month old baby in 2003. She suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, emotional unstable personality disorder and an eating disorder. She spent many years in and out of mental health institutions and prisons. The times when she was not in institutions, she totally relied on her family for support, who desperately tried to get the right help for her but felt that she was constantly being failed by the system.
In 2012, Sarah was assaulted by a police officer James Kiddie. That experience aggravated her mental health issues.
The inquest into her death will seek to explore the following issues:
• Her medication and issues around why they were altered and stopped
• The use of segregation and punishment for her behaviour
• Suicide and self-harm risk assessments
• Delay in obtaining fitness to plead assessments and lack of transfer to a mental health unit
• Issues around family contact
• Mechanisms and circumstances of her death
The family of Sarah Reed said:
''We are looking forward to this inquest taking place. Sarah was adored and loved by the whole family and her death has been devastating for us. Before she was remanded, she had started to turn her life around. She was in a good relationship, she finally had housing and she was more settled. The one thing I am sure about is she died unexpectedly. We are hoping to get to the bottom of what caused her death and we are also asking for the general public to support us."
Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:
“Sarah Reed was an extremely vulnerable black woman with a long history of mental ill health. She was one of 22 women who died in women’s prisons in 2016, three of whom were women of colour. Twelve of these deaths were classified as self-inflicted, representing an eleven year high. The fundamental question in this case, like so many more before it is: why was Sarah ever sent to prison in the first place? The state’s responsibility for deaths goes beyond the prison walls and extends to failures in mental health and substance abuse provision, sentencing policies and the failure to implement the Corston report and invest in alternatives to custody.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
For further information, please contact Lucy McKay on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7263 1111
INQUEST have been working with the family of Sarah Reed since her death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Irene Nembhard of Birnberg Peirce & Partners Solicitors and Sean Horstead of Garden Court Chambers.
Deaths of women in prison
• In 2016 there were a total of 22 deaths in women’s prisons in England and Wales. This is the highest total number of deaths on the female estate since INQUEST started recording statistics in 1990. Three of those who died were women of colour, including Sarah. Of these deaths at least 12 were self-inflicted, the highest number since 2004.
• According to Ministry of Justice statistics (March 2016-March 2017), within the female prison estate there were 10 self-inflicted deaths at a rate of 2.6 per 1,000 prisoners. This is compared to 1.3 per 1,000 prisoners across both the male and female estates.
• More information on the deaths of women in prison can be found here, with reports from a number of oversight bodies.
• Sarah was assaulted by police officer James Kiddie in November 2012. Kiddie was convicted of common assault in March 2014 and sentenced to a community order
• Following Sarah’s death the Guardian wrote this article discussing her death and treatment by the various institutions she interacted with. They also interviewed Sarah’s mother, Marylin.
• HMP Holloway closed in July 2016, with prisoners being moved to HMP Downview and HMP Bronzefield. George Osborne, announced the closure on 25 November 2015, saying prison would close and would be sold for housing.
• Local campaigners are asking that some of the site of the prison is retained for “urgently needed community facilities and women’s support services, such as domestic violence and mental health” (see Women in Prison). The campaign page can be found here.