JR claim issued challenging the alarmingly high rate of self-inflicted deaths in Woodhill Prison

There have already been six apparently self-inflicted deaths in HMP Woodhill this year. That is the highest rate in the entire prison estate and is about one every 45 days. There were five such deaths in the prison in 2015, again the highest number in the prison estate. There have been 17 self-inflicted deaths there since May 2013. The Claimants have asked the court to order that measures are put in place to tackle this grave situation.

This claim is being brought by the relatives of Ian Brown and Daniel Dunkley. Ian committed suicide in his cell in HMP Woodhill on 19 July 2015. Daniel was found hanging in his cell on 29th July 2016 and died 4 days later in hospital.

The Claimants case is that the action that needs to be taken to reduce the risk of future deaths is clear and uncontroversial. It has been repeatedly identified by recommendations from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, whose recommendations have been accepted by the prison, and by others including the Coroner and Inspector of Prisons. There is no mystery about what needs to be done, the problem is that no one is doing it.

The need to take action is made all the more urgent by the crisis in prisons. The suicide and homicide rate in the prison system nationally is the highest it has been for 25 years. In terms of self-inflicted death, HMP Woodhill is the worst establishment of all.

The Governor, Rob Davis, arrived at the prison in 2013. Before then, the rate of suicide was much lower. He was previously at HMP Chelmsford where, again, the rate of self-inflicted death increased dramatically after he arrived at the prison in 2007.

The Claimants argue that the Governor and Secretary of State for Justice have failed to put in place obvious measures for the protection of prisoners from suicide. They have acted unlawfully and in breach of article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to life). They are asking the court to order that the Governor and Secretary of State for Justice:

  1. ensure that all relevant prison staff currently at HMP Woodhill understand the instructions within national policy on self-harm and suicide;
  2. ensure that all relevant prison staff currently at HMP Woodhill understand the relevant policy and their responsibilities during medical emergencies.
  3. ensure that staff are given sufficient time to enable them to deliver the outcomes within national policy on self-harm and suicide.
  4. agree whether more money should be made available to the Governor to enable him to comply with the above and provide it if it is needed.

This is a list of the people who have died in the prison since May 2013:

Kevin Scarlett was found hanging in his cell and died on 22 May 2013 aged 30.  

David Hunter was found hanging in his cell and died on 26 May 2013 aged 28.

Sean Brock was found hanging in his cell and died on 10 November 2013 aged 21.

Stephen Farrar was found hanging in his cell and died on 12 December 2013 aged 25.

Dwane Harper was found hanging in his cell and died on 4 April 2014 aged 33.

Jonathan White was found hanging in his cell and died on 14 October 2014 aged 37.

Daniel Byrne was found hanging in his cell and died on 27 February 2015 aged 29.

Ryan Harvey was found hanging in his cell and died on 8 May 2015 aged 23.

Ian Brown was found hanging in his cell and died on 17 May 2015 aged 44.

Joanna Latham was found hanging in her cell and died on 27 November 2015 aged 38.

Simon Turvey was found hanging in his cell and died on 29 December 2015 aged 27.

Ireneusz Polubinski was found hanging in his cell and died on 31 January 2016 aged 58.

Robert Fenlon was found hanging in his cell and died on 5 March 2016 aged 35.

Michael Cameron was found hanging in his cell and died on 28 April 2016 aged 45.

Thomas Morris was founding hanging in his cell and died on 26 June 2016 aged 32.

Daniel Dunkley was found hanging in his cell and died on 2 August 2016 aged 35.

David Reynor was found hanging in his cell and died on 25 August 2016 aged 41.

Jo Eggleton, a partner at Deighton Pierce Glynn says:

“One crucial concern for the families I have worked with is to spare others from having to go through the awful ordeal they have faced.  To that end they commit themselves to the sometimes painfully slow processes designed to investigate the circumstances of their loved ones’ deaths in order to identify the lessons to be learned. To then find out nothing has actually changed and another man has died in similar circumstances is devastating for them. The prison has said many times that they take each death very seriously. It’s about time they prove this to the families and us all by taking decisive action now.”

The Claimants’ are represented by Inquest Lawyer’s Group member Jo Eggleton and Adam Straw from Doughty Street chambers.