Pauline Campbell was found dead on 15 May 2008, lying on the grave of her daughter Sarah. Sarah died in January 2003 in HMP Styal.
INQUEST’s staff were very sad to receive news of the death of Pauline Campbell. We advised and supported Pauline after her 18 year old daughter Sarah died in Styal prison in January 2003 and through the long and difficult investigation and inquest process. Her grief and anger at the horrendous circumstances in which her daughter died and the insensitive way she, as a bereaved parent, was treated after the death motivated her tireless campaigning to expose the continuing death toll in women’s prisons. She became a fearless, formidable and passionate campaigner and a persistent thorn in the side of the state. Pauline spoke for the first time in public on the issue at INQUEST’s Annual General Meeting in March 2003. She also spoke eloquently at the parliamentary launch of INQUEST’s report Dying on the Inside, a book to which she contributed her experiences following Sarah’s death.
The emotional impact of a death in custody on families should not be forgotten and how it is exacerbated by state secrecy, insensitivity, delay and lack of accountability. Pauline Campbell was haunted by the appalling treatment and neglect of her vulnerable daughter in prison, described by the inquest jury as a failure in the duty of care. Her subsequent campaigning and protests was her way of her holding the Prison Service to account and influenced the government into setting up Baroness Corston’s review of women in the criminal justice system. She forced the issue on to the political agenda and she had a wonderful knack of holding ministers to account whenever she had the chance.
Pauline was committed not just to campaigning but also to helping INQUEST’s work in supporting bereaved families. She was one of a number of bereaved parents who turned their own personal loss into a collective response to injustice and state neglect. The need for this campaigning work to continue is demonstrated by the fact that since the death of Pauline’s daughter another 41 women have taken their own lives in prison.
The impact Pauline had on so many people has been demonstrated by the depth and breadth of tributes we received at our office in the days since her untimely death.
Pauline Campbell was buried in the same grave as her daughter Sarah on 30 May 2008 following a funeral service at St Alkmund’s Church in Whitchurch, Shropshire. Members of the INQUEST casework team attended the service and read a tribute to Pauline’s memory. In December 2008, HM CoronerThe legal official who orders a post-mortem and who is in charge of the inquest procedure. for Cheshire Nicholas Rheinberg (who had heard the inquest into the death of Sarah Campbell as well as all the others into deaths of women in HMP Styal) recorded that Pauline took her own life, having taken an overdose of the same anti-depressants as her daughter.
A memorial for Pauline was organised by Justice For Women on Saturday 27 September 2008 with a public meeting and exhibition at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre afterwards. INQUEST’s Co-director Deborah Coles contributed an interview about Pauline to the BBC Radio 4 obituaries programme Last Word, broadcast in May 2008, and she also introduced the inaugural Pauline Campbell Memorial Lecture by Erwin James at The Bluecoat in Liverpool on 12 October 2008. The lecture was followed by a discussion of the issues raised, chaired by Joe Sim, Professor of Criminology at Liverpool John Moores University and member of the INQUEST Board.
Deborah Coles will deliver the third Pauline Campbell Memorial Lecture on Friday 15 October 2010 at The Bluecoat. Deborah will be exploring Pauline Campbell’s legacy, and the wider impact of protest in shaping the society we live in. The event will feature guests who have direct experience of protest and human rights.
Pauline Campbell (left) at the seventh annual United Families and Friends remembrance procession, October 2005
Pauline Campbell speaking at the launch of Dying on the Inside in the House of Commons, April 2008