Suicide and murder rates in prisons in England and Wales have reached their highest levels in years according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice.

In 2013, there were four alleged homicides, the highest number since 1998, and 70 self-inflicted deaths, more than at any time since 2008. There were 199 deaths in prisons in England and Wales in total.

The sharp rise in suicide rates has been blamed on the ‘toxic combination’ of the government’s cuts to prison budgets and the overcrowded prisons in Britain. The prison population is now thought to be twice as large as it was 20 years ago.

Independent charity organization Howard League for Penal Reform has said that almost all deaths in custody were preventable.

An inspection report of Lindholme HM Prison in South Yorkshire last summer was very critical of safety measures in place. The report found that more than a third of prisoners felt unsafe and that drugs and alcohol were freely available. Many prisoners were also reported to have mental health problems, with 62% of male prisoners and 54% of female inmates being classed as having a personality disorder.

In December 2013 a prisoner at Lindholme prison died from stab wounds. Two prisoners will stand trial for the killing.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “We are committed to making sure prisons are safe and secure. This includes reducing the number of deaths and applying strenuous efforts to learn from each one.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “Every death is subject to an investigation by the police and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman as well as a coroner’s inquest.”

Farleys has a team of solicitors specialising in inquests as well as pursuing actions against detaining authorities. We can offer advice in preparation for an inquest and representation during inquest hearings. We can also provide you with advice on pursuing a fatal accident claim or negligence claim against a detaining authority at no cost to you.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our inquest solicitors to discuss any of these issues in a free initial consultation.

By Kelly Darlington, Inquest Solicitor