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INQUEST E-Newsletter May-June 2014
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Welcome to the July-August edition of INQUEST’s E-Newsletter.
The past two months have seen the safety of prisoners come under the spotlight once again. A series of highly critical inspection reports were published by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, who has continued to raise serious concerns about the high number of self-inflicted deaths and the general safety of prisoners. Of particular concern were inspection reports of two young offender institutions, HMYOI Glen Parva and HMYOI Hindley. The former was the prison in which 18 year old Greg Revell died in June this year, where conditions were described as unacceptable with high levels of violence, bullying and self-harm. And HMYOI Hindley was where 17 year old Jake Hardy was imprisoned when he died in January 2012. The inquest earlier this year identified 12 separate failures that contributed to his preventable death. Despite this, the report published in August found HMYOI Hindley ‘still struggling to keep some of the boys it held safe’.
At the same time, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman published a critical report on the deaths of 18-24 year olds, which formed his submission to the Harris Review. INQUEST described the report as 'more evidence of the fatal consequences of placing vulnerable young people in bleak and unsafe institutions ill-equipped to deal with their complex needs'.
We have continued to raise the issue of prisoner safety at the highest level highlighting the sharp rise in self-inflicted deaths and the patterns that INQUEST has observed that characterise those deaths. These include concerns over sentencing and the high numbers on remand, poor staffing levels, and quality of care for vulnerable prisoners and those with mental health problems. This was underlined by a highly critical report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons on HMP Doncaster which warned of a 'troubling' deterioration in the prison since a 2010 inspection, with high levels of violence and staff 'overwhelmed by the challenges confronting them'.
An important milestone for the family of Azelle Rodney occurred in July, when the Crown Prosecution Service finally announced it would be prosecuting the police officer who shot and killed him for murder. Conversely, the family of Habib 'Paps' Ullah were informed in August that the CPS would not go ahead with prosecutions for any of the officers in relation to his death. This despite the fact that the IPCC announced on the same day that they had found a case to answer for gross misconduct against five Thames Valley officers in relation to events prior his death in July 2008.

Don't forget: links to INQUEST's media coverage are available on our website

Supporting INQUEST

We urgently need your help to sustain our work advising and guiding families through the inquest provess. If you can, please make a donation or become a regular giver - any gift, no matter how small, contributes to securing INQUEST’s future. Please give generously, however you can, it's easy and secure to do via our JustGiving page. If you are a tax payer and you Gift Aid your donation, the government will give us 25p for every pound you donate – at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Fundraising

We are very grateful to various family members and friends of Thomas Orchard, who died in police custody in October 2012, who are running the Great West Run for INQUEST in October. Emma Higgins, who is taking part in the run, said "Justice is being fought for, but in the meantime INQUEST have been fantastic and given advice and support to a clueless family who never in a million years thought they would have to deal with a death of their child or brother. I want to raise some money for them so they can help another family just like they have mine." Their team page is here - please sponsor them if you can.
And huge thanks to everyone who contributed to and attended a summer barbecue and quiz in aid of INQUEST organised by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Cyrilia Davies of Birnberg Pierce solicitors. The event, which took place in Warrington where the Hillsborough inquests are currently ongoing, raised nearly £2800 for INQUEST.
In July, INQUEST joined 31 other organisations in opposition to the government’s proposal to introduce a ‘residence test’ in order to qualify for legal aid, in a campaign organised by the Public Law Project. Under the proposals, individuals would have to prove they have been lawfully resident in the UK for 12 months or more.  This would affect recently arrived migrants, whether they are here lawfully or not. It would also impact directly and immediately on British and long-term UK residents who, because of their circumstances, lack the kind of evidence that will be needed to satisfy the residence test. The proposals were voted through by the House of Commons in early July and were due to be debated by the House of Lords on the 21st.  However, following a legal challenge brought by Bindmans LLP, the divisional court ruled on 15 July that the test was unlawful.  The debate in the House of Lords is now stayed pending the outcome of the government’s appeal against the ruling.
The latest edition of our in-house law journal Inquest Law is now out! Featuring Dexter Dias QC on the inquest into the death of Cherry Groce, an outline of the impact of 'Cheshire West' on jury inquests, a comprehensive legal update and thirteen casenotes covering a inquests into deaths involving the police, prison deaths, and deaths in mental health settings and immigration detention. Buy individual copies or subscribe here.
We said goodbye to Hannah Ward, INQUEST Communications and Information Manager and author of this newsletter, who left INQUEST on 2 September. INQUEST is currently recruiting for a Communications Officer, more details and info on how to apply here.
We welcomed Ayesha Carmouche, who joined us as Policy and Parliamentary Officer in August, and Carly Grey who has joined us as a volunteer.
Prison deaths
As of 31 August there have been 134 deaths in prison custody, 51 of them self-inflicted. There have been 11 deaths of young people aged 24 and under, and nine deaths of women.

Police deaths
The last three months have seen several deaths in police custody, with 8 recorded from June-August. This brings the total to 16 deaths during or following police contact this year.

Casework
Despite the expectation of the summer months being somewhat quieter, a series of high profile police deaths and the continuing fallout from the sharp rise in self-inflicted deaths in prison have contributed to a steady stream of new enquiries and our casework team opened 35 new cases in July and August.

 
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