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  •  »  INQUEST REOPENS INTO THE DEATH OF VULNERABLE WOMAN SARAH NAMALA IN HMP COOKHAM WOOD

INQUEST REOPENS INTO THE DEATH OF VULNERABLE WOMAN SARAH NAMALA IN HMP COOKHAM WOOD

INQUEST PRESS RELEASE – For immediate release 14 October 2010

Monday 18 October 2010 at 10am
before HM Coroner for Mid Kent and Medway, Roger Sykes
sitting at the
County Hall, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1XQ

The inquest into the death of Sarah Namala will reopen on Monday 18 October 2010 and is listed for three to four weeks.

Sarah Namala, aged 44, was found unconscious and unresponsive in her single cell at HMP Cookham Wood on 15 October 2006.  Sarah was a Ugandan national who claimed asylum in the UK having fled torture.  She had a history of mental health issues including hearing voices and self-harming.

Whilst in custody Sarah also suffered a number of fits. Despite inconclusive investigations into their cause, a prison doctor prescribed her anti-convulsant medication to treat epilepsy in December 2005.  This was in contrast to guidance issued by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 2004.  In August 2006 Sarah saw a consultant neurologist at an outside hospital but a firm diagnosis of epilepsy was never made.  The neurologist was not made aware of the medication Sarah had been prescribed and specifically advised that, as nothing abnormal was detected, anti epileptic medications were not appropriate and should not be prescribed.

Sarah’s family are determined to ensure that all the circumstances of her tragic death are brought under proper scrutiny. They hope the inquest will examine the following matters:

  • ·        The decision to place Sarah on anti-convulsant medication against national guidance.
  • ·        The decision to reduce Sarah’s anti-convulsant medication three weeks before her death.
  • ·        The failure to properly monitor Sarah whilst alone in her cell, given her history of fitting.
  • ·        The failure to communicate Sarah’s medical history to the consultant neurologist.

Deborah Coles, Co-Director of INQUEST, said:

Vital questions need to be answered about the standard of medical care Sarah, a highly vulnerable woman, received in HMP Cookham Wood.  We remain deeply concerned about the state of prison healthcare and the rise in apparent natural causes deaths.

Sarah Namala’s family are being represented by counsel Fiona Paterson of 3 Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, instructed by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Marcia Willis Stewart of Birnberg Peirce and Partners.

Note to editors:

In 2007 HMP Cookham Wood underwent a change in function and now accommodates 15- 17 year old males.

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