Inquest opens into death of 21-year-old transgender woman who told prison staff she would ‘leave prison in a box’

Tuesday 2 May 2017

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. The family is represented by Anna Morris of Garden Court Chambers and Komal Hussain of Minton Morrill Solicitors.

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She was self-harming and suicidal whilst in police custody in October 2015. Vikki was transferred to HMP Leeds and was subject to Assessment Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) 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. 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.”

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.

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.

Ministry of Justice (MOJ) stats show the rate of self-inflicted deaths in prison has more than doubled since 2013.

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.

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.

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.

This press release was originally published by INQUEST on 27 April 2017.

The death of Vikki Thompson has been widely covered in the press, including the Guardian and BBC News.

Anna Morris is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Inquests and Inquiries Team.

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