The Ministry of Justice on the 18th September 2023 published its Justice in Numbers 2022-2023 report.

The key figures in relation to prisons from the report are as follows:

  • Self-inflicted deaths have increased from 70 deaths to 88 deaths from 2022-2023.

  • Self-harm incidents per 1,000 inmates has increased from 684 to 733.

  • The prison population has increased by 5,192 to 85,851, in excess of the operational capacity of 82,759.

The increase in self-inflicted deaths and self-harm incidents is symptomatic of the failings of the UK’s prison system.

In the United Kingdom, prisons are not fit for purpose. The Chief Inspector of Prisons has stated that 14 Victorian Prisons (10% of UK prisons) cannot provide appropriate accommodation for inmates with too few staff, overcrowding, vermin infestations, and inadequate facilities for retraining and education cited as key issues facing Britain’s prisons. These prisons include Wandsworth, Pentonville, Liverpool, Leicester, Lewes, Exeter, Bristol, and Leeds.

The UK’s prison population has increased in 2022-2023 by 5,000, to 86,000, whilst the operational capacity, despite improvements, falls short of the population at an estimated 82,759.

The prison environment has the potential to worsen the vulnerability of its occupants to violence and premature death with statistics demonstrating that mental health issues, suicidal ideation and suicide rates are considerably more prevalent amongst prisoners in contrast to those living in the community with such issues affecting the most disadvantaged and vulnerable across the intersections of race, gender, disability, and class.

Where a death occurs in police or prison custody, an inquest is required by law. Through inquests, bereaved families who have lost a loved one in prison, can pose questions surrounding the death, often bringing about invaluable learning opportunities from the death of their loved one, and subsequently meaningful change.

Suicide is a complex issue and can rarely be attributed to one factor. Environmental factors, mental wellbeing, external stimuli and access to both physical and mental health care all contribute to an increased suicide risk.

Inquests often uncover concerns such as poor standards of mental and physical healthcare, ignorance of risk warnings, failure to implement suicide prevention strategies and segregation as well as countless other issues which underlie deaths in prison.

The inquest team at Farleys has a wealth of experience in assisting families of those who have died in prison and an awareness that the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of the death of a loved one can be particularly distressing.

We hold a Legal Aid franchise, in many cases giving bereaved families who have lost a loved one at the hands of the state the opportunity to secure Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) from the Legal Aid Agency to cover the cost of representation, which they may not otherwise be in a position to pay for. Our specialists can advise you on the most suitable funding arrangement for your circumstances.

If there’s anything we can help you with regarding advice on inquests or representation at an inquest, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by email or by calling 0845 287 0939.