Further criticisms of Styal prison emerge at inquest

A female prisoner obtained drugs and died of an overdose because
a nurse failed to ensure the medication trolley was secure, an
inquest ruled today, writes Maria

Julie Walsh, a remand prisoner at Styal prison in Cheshire, was
one of six women with drug and mental health problems to die at the
prison between August 2002 and August 2003.

The jury at the inquest at Macclesfield Town Hall today ruled
that Walshs’ death was “an unintentional consequence of
her actions”.

Walsh died of an overdose after taking a bottle of the drug
dothiepin from the medication trolley, the inquest heard.

The verdict said: “The contributing factor to her death
was the failure of the nurse to secure the medication on the
trolley. This provided an opportunity for the bottle of dothiepin
to be taken.”

Throughout the past two weeks, the jury has heard evidence of
the poor security of medication during its administration to
prisoners, and the low staffing levels of nurses and prison

The juries at previous Styal inquests into the deaths of Anna
Baker, Sarah Campbell and Jolene Willis have returned highly
critical verdicts and highlighted issues of concerns about the
treatment and care of women withdrawing from drugs.

Commenting on today’s verdict, co-director of campaign
group Inquest Deborah Coles questioned why the prison service had
failed to implement guidelines to put proper detox regimes in

She added: “Since Julie’s death another 25 women
have died in prisons around the country. There needs to be a
wide-ranging independent public inquiry that examines the wider
issues outside the scope of inquests – sentencing,
allocation, and whether prison can ever be an appropriate place for
vulnerable women. Such an inquiry could make a significant
contribution to preventing any further loss of life.”

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