Landmark Legal Case
Failures in prison mental health care
The View, a campaigning platform and a quarterly print magazine for women in the Criminal Justice System, is backing a potentially landmark legal case against failures in mental health care for a female prisoner, known as “Ms L”. The case could provide a breakthrough for vulnerable women with complex mental health conditions and encourage the desperately needed reform of prison mental health services.
The View’s campaign for a fundraising target of £10,000 in order to pay for a crucial psychologist’s report and legal fees is on the prestigious CrowdJustice platform, known for raising funding important cases, such as the PPE contracts for the NHS, The Centre for Women’s Justice campaign to fund a legal case against the CPS for low rape convictions and others.
Provided the funds are raised, Ms L will be represented by the eminent lawyer, Mr Tim Gir of Sanders Witherspoon LLP and leading barrister, Mr Alan Barker, of the well respected public law, crime and human rights set, led by Mike Manfield QC, Nexus Chambers.
Given that £500 million is spent on prison health care contracts and approximately £150 million on mental health care, it is staggering that women in prison are denied vital mental health support and rehabilitation whilst in prison.
Following Ms L’s harrowing childhood traumas and extreme abuse, she has spent over 25 years in and out of prison with no appropriate mental health treatment. Lack of mental health support and no rehabilitative services can undoubtedly lead to desperation and consequent reoffending.This devastating cycle also costs the taxpayer.
Ms L describes her experience:-
“I think people generally have a distorted view of what happens to women in prison.
There is no mental health support. There is no rehabilitation. We literally sit there at your expense, doing nothing, getting worse.
When I got out, my life was shattered, and again, I had to start rebuilding from scratch. I couldn’t function normally, I felt estranged from my life and my friends. I had been retraumatised by the system that was meant to protect me.”
Ms L was misdiagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder in 2005. However, even with this initial diagnosis, she was provided no rehabilitation and no treatment. Her mental health declined in prison which led to self harming, suicidal ideation and self medicating with other inmates medication out of desperation. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by Graham Rogers, a solicitor-instructed independent psychologist and expert witness with over 30 years experience in the NHS and private sector.
Graham is all too aware of the severe shortfall in mental health support for vulnerable women and strongly advocates for policy reform. He resolutely disputes the Ministry of Justice’s claim that adequate mental health support is available in the prison system and recognises how women are repeatedly failed.
Graham insists fundamental improvements must be made to meet duty of care within the prison system. He explains:-
“It is not enough to ask what constitutes ‘appropriate care’ or even ‘good enough care’ for those with mental illness. We also need to consider reasonable access to any form of care – getting an appointment with a mental health professional is difficult but getting to that appointment is virtually impossible.
The prison population is extremely complex but dominated by those with mental health needs and those with learning, language and communication difficulties and disorders. Yet the prison system appears to be unable or unwilling to identify their needs or meet them.”
Despite failed attempts by Ms L in complaining to the Prison Services regarding the neglect of her health, she continued to fight for help and escalated her complaint to The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). The PHSO judged that CNWL NHS Foundation Trust had indeed failed Ms L by not adhering to the terms of their contract. This report is the foundation of her legal case.
By virtue of its clinical negligence insurance which is funded by the taxpayer, CNWL NHS Foundation Trust have secured the representation of Clyde and Co, one of the largest and most successful negligence defence claim firms in the UK. It is therefore crucial that every effort is made to fight for justice, not only for Ms L but all women in prison who strive for and deserve a better life, only to be systemically failed by the Criminal Justice System.
You can support The View’s CrowdJustice campaign here.
Many thanks to Clare B for kind permission to use her original artwork in this blog post.