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JURY HIGHLIGHTS PRISON FAILURES IN DEATH OF VULNERABLE WOMAN MELANIE BESWICK IN HMP SEND
1 May 2013
The jury at the inquest into the death of Melanie Beswick at HMP Send has returned a verdict that she took her own life while the balance of her mind was disturbed, but that failures in communication and assessment contributed to her death.
Melanie was found hanging in her cell in HMP Send in August 2010. She had been convicted of fraud and was serving a second default prison term for failing to meet the terms of a confiscation order. She had already served a prison sentence for the fraud itself which was her first and only offence.
Melanie had a long history of depression and self harm and the sentencing judge had specifically warned the prison service that she was a serious suicide risk. She also had two young daughters.
Melanie hanged herself following her return from hospital where she had been taken that day due to her fragile mental state. The jury found that failures in communication between the prison and the hospital, and internally within the prison, contributed to Melanie’s death. The Coroner has made two rule 43 reports recommending changes in the way information is shared between hospitals and prisons nationally and changes in the way suicide risk is managed at HMP Send.
Melanie’s mother, Margery Davies said:
“It’s the children who suffer most. It’s wrong to send mothers to prison especially when the crime they committed was not violent and they are not a threat to the public. Nothing can bring Melanie back but we hope to see real changes that mean no other family ever has to go through this again.”
Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:
“This is a shocking death of a woman who should never have been sent to prison. She was a first time, non violent offender with mental health problems, a history of self harm and had been recognised as a serious suicide risk.
“Six years ago Baroness Corston’s report warned that a fundamental overhaul of the way women were dealt with in the criminal justice system was needed as a matter of urgency. Everything highlighted in her review sadly holds true for this case and demonstrates the dire consequences of not implementing her recommendations. Prisons cannot safely deal with vulnerable women with complex mental health needs. The Government must urgently introduce proper alternatives to prison so that no other child is deprived of a caring mother and no other family is left with the tragic loss after a death that could and should have been prevented.”
The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Jo Eggleton from Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors and barrister Jesse Nicholls of Tooks chambers.
Notes to editors:
1. Full background to Melanie Beswick’s death here
‘I was already working with INQUEST, which is the organisation who monitor deaths in custody, and at one AGM I told the audience that what happened to these people [killed in police custody like Chistopher Alder, Roger Sylvester and many others] could happen to any of us. And then a couple of years later, I was standing in front of them again but now it had happened to my cousin. So my family and me were now “users” of Inquest. It shows you that none of us are immune – here am I, Benjamin Zephaniah, patron of INQUEST and client of INQUEST at the same time.’
– Benjamin Zephaniah