Independent inquiry ordered into Feltham suicide bid

Judges have ordered an independent inquiry into how a young prisoner was left irreversibly brain-damaged following his
suicide attempt at Feltham Young Offender Institution in west London.

The man, known as “JL”, was found hanging from a bed sheet attached to the bars of his cell in August 2002, the Court of
Appeal heard last week. His family said he was wrongly taken off suicide watch, despite being identified as a “very high
suicide risk” by a member of Feltham’s chaplaincy team.

The court ruled JL’s family was “entitled to answers”, which only an independent inquiry could bring to light.

The court heard JL, who was arrested for suspected cocaine dealing, became “very anxious and stressed” after three days at Feltham and was placed on suicide watch. A week later he was taken off suicide watch after he was noted to be denying thoughts of self-harm and suicide. He was locked in his cell alone at the time of the suicide attempt, and survived after two
resuscitation attempts but suffered brain damage, the court was told.

An investigation was carried out by a former prison governor, but the judges said it “could not have had the degree of independence required” to comply with human rights legislation.

Lord Justice Waller cited statistics showing that two people kill themselves in prison almost every week. A date for the
inquiry is yet to be set.

Community Care wants to hear about your experiences of working in a young offender institution. Contact Sally Gillen on 020 8652 4853 or e-mail her at

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