Another victim of lax care at New Hall
Compiled from various sources
4WardEver UK 7 April 2007
Updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
37-year-old Mandy Pearson from West Yorkshire died after being found hanging in her cell at New Hall Prison on 12th October 2004. Mandy was serving a five month sentence for assault, and was found suspended in a dormitory in the prison. She was taken to a hospital outside the prison where she was pronounced dead the following afternoon.
Her death was the twelfth in women’s jails in the UK during 2004. Her death led to demands from the Howard League for Penal Reform to magistrates and crown courts to avoid sending women to prison in order to save lives.
Spokeswoman Frances Cook said: “All too often when we look at prison suicides we only look at what went wrong inside the prisons, but the magistrates and judges are just as much to blame for the deaths.”It is time for sentencers to take responsibility for their decisions. Prisons are not safe for women.”
In 2004 a spokesperson from campaign group INQUEST said: “The self-inflicted death of Mandy Pearson a stark reminder of the rising number of self-inflicted deaths in women’s prisons – twelve already this year and ten since April. The total number of self-inflicted deaths in prison this year is 80, nearly 15% of which are women who make up only 6% of the total prison population. Mandy was found in her cell early on Tuesday afternoon.”
Following an earlier death at the prison INQUEST issued the following press release in July 2003:
The inquest into the death of Grimsby woman, Victoria Winterburn , who died in January last year at New Hall Prison, Wakefield came to an end today – and, according to the solicitor representing Ms Winterburn¹s family, its verdict of death by misadventure contributed to by neglect has implications for the whole of the Prison Service.
Peter Mahy of Sheffield-based Howells solicitors said the inquest verdict had cited three main areas where the Prison had failed Victoria:
1. There was no doctor on duty in the reception area to prescribe drugs for incoming prisoners suffering from heroin withdrawal symptoms, there should have been a nurse on 24-hour duty to ensure that someone with medical qualifications and experience was available to observe prisoners who were detoxing, and the prison¹s system for identifying those at risk of self harm was not effective.
2. That system is one used by the Prison Service throughout the UK and this verdict means that the whole system should be overhauled to not leave it up to chance that individual prison staff will be able to identify vulnerable prisoners, but would make it the norm for any prisoner who is withdrawing from drugs to be automatically considered at risk for the first 72 hours of their imprisonment.
3. The facts which came out during the inquest certainly raise real concerns about the spate of deaths in New Hall Prison, the most recent of which was Jessica Adams, who died there just ten days ago. This verdict is extremely welcome and offers some relief to Victoria¹s family. Obviously, nothing can bring Victoria back, but her death and the subsequent inquest have exposed the flaws in the system, which will hopefully now be tackled to prevent similar tragedies occurring in future.
Deborah Coles Co-Director of INQUEST says:
“In the last ten years there have been 9 self inflicted deaths at the women¹s prison HMP New Hall, 4 of which have occurred in the last 18 months. This comes at a time of a record number of female deaths in the prison system. Today a jury has delivered a verdict of Misadventure contributed by Neglect on the case of Victoria Winterburn, a 21-year-old woman who hung herself in her cell.
The jury significantly detailed the lack of a 24-hour nurse, the absence of a doctor on reception and that the suicide prevention system needs overhauling. INQUEST hopes that these conclusions will have a positive impact on future juries empowering them to look closely at the information with which they are presented. INQUEST has constantly argued that whilst the system withstands criticism on paper, in reality it has consistently failed.”
Demo outside New Hall women’s Prison
10 May 2006
INQUEST Press Release (PDF file – off-site)
13 October 2004