When someone has died in prison – whether due to violence from another prisoner, suicide, or natural causes – an inquest will be held to find out the circumstances surrounding their death. When an inquest involves a death in prison, what is known as an Article 2 Inquest will be held.

Due to the secure and private nature of prisons, families are often given little, if any, information about the circumstances around their loved one’s death and it may feel like you have many unanswered questions about what happened.

We have experience in a wide range of prison inquests, such as:

  • suicide or self-inflicted injuries
  • deaths caused by other prisoners
  • inquests involving the use of ‘spice’
  • deaths relating to medical issues, such as where the condition was not diagnosed properly or where treatment was not given as it ought to have been
  • deaths arising during drug withdrawal programmes in prison.

Our specialist inquest lawyers are experienced in investigating deaths in prison and can support you and your family through the inquest process to make sure that your concerns are properly addressed and your questions are answered.

We can advise you and your family from start to finish, and will attend the inquest alongside you to ask questions on your behalf and with your input. Our experience in prison inquests means we understand the specialist terminology used in prison settings, which can otherwise be daunting and confusing to a family member, and we know what documentation ought to be provided in advance of the inquest to understand the whole picture.

We will ensure specialist representation for you throughout the inquest hearing so that your concerns about what happened to your loved one whilst in the care of the state are properly addressed. We can also advise you in relation to bringing a claim against the prison if it is demonstrated that there was substandard care or treatment which caused your loved one’s death.

We understand that this will be an emotionally challenging process, during what is already a distressing time, and we will do our utmost to guide you through the process and to take the burden off you as far as possible.

For more information on what an inquest is please read our inquest guide.

We can also help put you in touch with specialist organisations that can provide further support during this difficult time. By way of example, we work closely with charity INQUEST, who provide an invaluable source of support and information where someone has died in prison.

Will I have to pay legal costs?

There are a number of ways to obtain legal representation at an inquest, many of which come at no cost to you.

In a prison death, where Article 2 is engaged, it is likely that Legal Aid public funding will be available to help fund representation and legal advice free of charge. However, please see our page on funding for more information or call us, without cost, to discuss it further.

It is always best to call us, so we can offer tailored advice about which options are available and which may be best for you.

Is this just about money?

If negligence caused the death of a loved one, seeking financial compensation is an option. This can help to recompense you for expenses incurred as a result of the death, and also ensure peace of mind as you are compensated for lost earnings, pensions, or childcare support.

However, we also understand that families may not have financial compensation as their main goal. We will fully investigate what happened, seek an apology and work to bring about changes to ensure that no other family has to suffer the loss of a loved one in similar circumstances.

Useful links

What is an inquest?

What is a pre-inquest review hearing?

Inquests: a glossary of legal terms

Recent cases

S had schizophrenia and other mental health problems. He lived in sheltered housing and needed support from others for many tasks of daily living.

S was arrested for failing to comply with the conditions of his probation, whereupon he told the officers that he was in pain due to an ulcer on his upper leg.

At the police station, S was seen by the Custody Nurse Practitioner, who noted that his leg appeared normal. The following day, S was transferred to prison where he was assessed by a doctor who prescribed antibiotics.

There were no further entries in S’s medical records until a week later when he was found unresponsive in his cell, despite clear CCTV footage of him being in too much pain to walk in the days prior. Sadly, he died as the infected abscess became septic. This could have been avoided if he had been given appropriate treatment.

Due to the volume of witnesses and complexity of the issues, the inquest took place over two weeks, with five separately represented Interested Persons.

The jury was highly critical of the care that S received, both at police custody and at the prison. The coroner produced a Prevention of Future Deaths report highlighting the inadequate police station examination which had contributed to S’s death.

Shortly after the inquest, we secured a formal admission of liability and apology for S’s death and we are now negotiating compensation for his family.

A had a number of long-term health conditions. Whilst in prison, he was admitted to a local hospital a number of times.

Initially, the hospital concluded that A’s symptoms were caused by anxiety, but later the diagnosis was corrected to one of pulmonary embolism. Upon transfer back to prison from hospital, A began to suffer chest, back and knee pain to the extent that he was unable to walk.

Just over a week after his discharge, the hospital called the prison to notify them that blood tests showed that A had dangerously high creatinine levels. He was readmitted to hospital and started on dialysis, suffering from suspected renal impairment. Sadly, his condition deteriorated rapidly and he passed away a few days later.

We were able to support and represent A’s family at the inquest into his death and ensure that the questions they had were answered. We also obtained an independent expert report which helped A’s family understand what happened to him in light of his complicated medical history.

More from our team

Why Teresa chose our inquest team

We spoke to our client, Teresa, about why she chose Royds Withy King for her inquest and compensation claim. Making a fatal claim or undergoing the legal process of a coroner's inquest can be a very stressful time. Our legal team are experts in this field and can help you through this complicated time in your, and your family's life.

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