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Mental health and prisons: Committee hears evidence from bereaved families

8 March 2017

The Joint Committee on Human Rights hears evidence from the families of two people who took their own lives while in custody.


Wednesday 8 March 2017, Committee Room 1, Palace of Westminster

At 3.15pm

  • Mark and Donna Saunders, parents of Dean Saunders, and his partner Clare Hobday Saunders
  • Sheila Waplington and Marlene Danter, Diane Waplington's mother and aunt

Dean Saunders

Dean Saunders, 25, was found dead in the prison 4 January 2016 after electrocuting himself. It was his first time in prison. Dean showed signs of acute mental ill health in the days before his imprisonment. He was taken from his home by the police on 16 December 2015 after an incident during which he tried to take his own life. At the police station, he was not detained under the Mental Health Act and transferred to hospital. Instead, he was charged and subsequently transferred to HMP & YOI Chelmsford (2).

The jury found that Dean Saunders and his family were "let down by serious failings in both mental health care and the prison system" and said that Care UK, the private company that runs healthcare at the prison, "treated financial consideration as a significant reason to reduce the level of observations" of Dean, despite repeated warnings of his state of mind.

They concluded that Dean killed himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed and that the cause of death was "contributed to by neglect".

Diane Waplington

Diane Waplington was found unresponsive in her cell while remanded to HMP Peterborough, having previously been an in-patient at Bassetlaw hospital. The inquest into her death took place in November 2016.  The jury found her death was by misadventure and they returned a critical conclusion about the care Diane received in prison, categorically stating that the opportunities to divert her away from prison custody were not adequately considered.

Witnesses will be accompanied by Deborah Coles from INQUEST. This is the first time that the witnesses have given evidence to a select committee.

Inquiry background

The inquiry seeks to establish whether a human rights based approach can lead to better prevention of deaths in prison of people with mental health conditions. The Committee examines why progress has not been made, despite the myriad recommendations made by the reports of other investigations and inquiries; and it seeks to identify the most important recommendations in these reports which have not been implemented and which ought to be.

Further information

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