Petra Blanksby case: Coroner demands action on women inmates

The coroner in the Petra Blanksby inquest is demanding better prison facilities for women with mental health problems.
David Hinchliff said he would write to the Prison Service and Department of Health after concluding that “prison was not an appropriate place” for Petra, whose inquest concluded last week. The 19-year-old was found hanging in her cell at New Hall prison in November 2003.

A jury found Petra’s “complete lack of emotional support” after being mentally and physically abused in early childhood had contributed to her death. Giving a narrative verdict, the jurors said there appeared to be no infrastructure in the forensic mental health service for people with Petra’s problems.

Petra had a history of self-harm and had been diagnosed with a personality disorder. At the time of her death, she was on remand, charged with arson with intent to endanger her life.

During the 130 days she spent at New Hall she was involved in at least 90 incidents of serious self-harm. During this time, her son was placed for adoption and witnesses told the inquest this resulted in a “blatantly obvious” increase in her self-harming.

The jury heard of “collective failures” of various authorities, including Derbyshire social services, to understand the impact of adoption proceedings on Petra’s mental health and self-harming.

The inquest concluded days after the apparently self-inflicted death of an inmate at Styal women’s prison, Lisa Marley, which prompted the charity Inquest to demand action from the government on implementing the recommendations of the Corston review into vulnerable women prisoners.

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