Court Gives Go Ahead To Prison Suicide Rate Challenge

The High Court has given permission in a claim seeking to tackle the exceptionally high suicide rate at HMP Woodhill. The rate of suicide at the prison has been the highest in the whole prison estate for two years. The High Court has given permission to relatives of two men who have taken their own lives in HMP Woodhill to proceed with their claim against the Governor of the prison, and Secretary of State for Justice, arguing that they have acted unlawfully by failing to take appropriate steps to reduce the rate of suicide there. The claimants are asking the court to order the defendants to take action to try to prevent further suicides.

In their summary grounds of resistance the defendants claimed appropriate steps had been taken and that the claim was misconceived and unarguable.

In granting permission Mr Justice Lavender observed that:

“It is not this court’s function to manage prisons and the injunctions sought may not be appropriate, but the reports of the Senior Coroner for Milton Keynes and of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman in 2014-15 speak of a repeated failure, despite earlier recommendations, to implement applicable policies. It is arguable that these matters cannot be dismissed as “operational failures.” The reports and other measures commissioned in 2016 may constitute an adequate response, but the fact of 3 or 4 self-inflicted deaths in HMP Woodhill since the Joint Review report of 31 March 2016 suggests the contrary is at least arguable.”

17 men have taken their own lives in HMP Woodhill since May 2013; 6 so far this year.

The Claimants are represented by INQUEST lawyers Group members Jo Eggleton of Deighton Pierce Glynn and Adam Straw of Doughty Street Chambers.

More information about this claim is available here:

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