Sarah Reed was found dead in her cell in Holloway Prison, north London, on 11 January.
In 2012 Sarah was the victim of police brutality when stopped by police on a shop-lifting allegation. PC James Kiddie was caught on CCTV grabbing Sarah by the hair and then punching her as she lay on the floor of the shop. The attack was so violent a fellow police officer gave evidence against Kiddie in court.
The circumstances of Sarah′s death in Holloway prison are unclear. The Ministry of Justice simply reports that Sarah was ″found unresponsive in her cell″ and that ″prison staff attempted CPR″. The independent Prison and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation.
Sarah′s story is a tragic and shocking tale of a woman who was denied help by every part of society and abused by the police and prison system. Sarah′s newborn baby died a sudden death in September 2003, after which she suffered bouts of severe mental ill-health. Whilst detained under the Mental Health Act in Maudsley hospital in October 2015 her family says she suffered a sexual assault. They believe that this incident, where she had to fight off the attacker, led to staff calling the police and Sarah being arrested.
The magistrates who heard the case against Sarah remanded her to prison to await trial, despite all the evidence that she should have been sent to a secure hospital where she may have got some of the support she needed.
70% of women sent to prison to await trial do not subsequently get a custodial sentence. 30% of women in prisons have been previously admitted to psychiatric units. In the 12 months up to September 2015 there were 7,415 incidents of self-harm by female prisoners in the UK. Sarah is a victim of how the justice system treats women.