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Inquest opens into death of 21 year old transgender woman who told prison staff she would ‘leave prison in a box’
Before HM Coroner Jonathan Leach
Wakefield Coroner’s Court
71 Northgate, Wakefield, WF1 3BS
Opens 2 May 2017 – expected to last 3 weeks
Vikki Thompson was 21 years old at the time of her death on 13 November 2015. She was a transgender woman prisoner housed on remand in HMP Leeds, a men’s prison.
She was self harming and suicidal whilst in police custody in October 2015. Vikki was transferred to HMP Leeds and was subject to ACCT (1) management processes during her imprisonment. She was under hourly observations when she was found hanging in her cell.
Vikki’s death was the second death of a transgender woman in prison within the space of a few weeks (2). The family hope the inquest will explore the adequacy of care and risk assessments at all stages of her detention.
Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:
“The fact that a 21 year old transgender woman, who had been identified as vulnerable, came to be detained in a male prison is deeply concerning. HMP Leeds has the second highest rate of self-inflicted deaths in the country. The issues surrounding Vikki’s death must be thoroughly examined in order to prevent future deaths.”
The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Gemma Vine and Komal Hussain of Minton Morrill Solicitors and Anna Morris of Garden Court Chambers.
NOTES TO EDITORS
For further information, please contact: Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT), the mechanism in prisons for managing prisoners at risk of self-harm or suicide.
2. There have been two further deaths of transgender women in men’s prisons since Vikki died. Joanne Latham died in HMP Woodhill on 27 November 2015 (only weeks after Vikki). Jenny Swift died in HMP Doncaster on 30 December 2016.
3. HMP Leeds has the second highest current death rate of any prison in England and Wales, since 2013. Since December 2013 there have been 10 self-inflicted deaths in HMP Leeds.
4. Ministry of Justice (MOJ) stats show the rate of self-inflicted deaths in prison has more than doubled since 2013.
5. The MOJ estimated that “there are 70 prisoners currently living in, or presenting in, a gender different to their sex assigned at birth and who have had a case conference” in a statistical release. There is no data on which estate the identified people are held in.
6. The Prison and Probation Ombudsman published a learning lessons bulletin focusing on transgender prisoners in January 2017 which contains detail on experiences and deaths of transgender people in prison.
7. Vikki’s death, as well as a number of high profile battles for trans women to be transferred to women’s prisons, prompted an MOJ review of the ‘Care and Management of Transgender offenders’. This led to the creation of a new Prison Service Instruction, which became active in January 2017.
INQUEST provides specialist advice on deaths in custody or detention or involving state failures in England and Wales. This includes a death in prison, in police custody or following police contact, in immigration detention or psychiatric care. INQUEST's policy and parliamentary work is informed by its casework and we work to ensure that the collective experiences of bereaved people underpin that work. Its overall aim is to secure an investigative process that treats bereaved families with dignity and respect; ensures accountability and disseminates the lessons learned from the investigation process in order to prevent further deaths.
Please refer to INQUEST the organisation in all capital letters in order to distinguish it from the legal hearing.
‘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