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Who was Sarah Reed?

Sarah Reed, daughter to Marylin Reed was aged 32 from London and a mother to a nine month old baby who died in 2003. This traumatic experience led to Sarah experiencing various mental health issues such as Schizophrenia, psychotic illness, bipolar disorder and bulimia.

What happened?

In January 2016, Sarah Reed was found dead in her cell at Holloway prison. Her family was initially told by the prison that she was found hanging and later, that she was found lying on her bed, with a “sophisticated ligature”.  When Marylin visited her daughter in Holloway prison on 2 January 2016, she saw her daughter looking unwell. This worried Marylin because in previous letters Sarah wrote to her saying ‘Please help me to get out of here; I shouldn’t be in here; I’m not being treated,” and “i need my medication”. 


Prior to this Sarah Reed was a victim of police brutality in 2012, when a Metropolitan Police constable by the name of James Kiddie, was caught on CCTV, yanking her by the hair, dragging her across the floor, pressing on her neck and punching her several times in the head.

What was the legal implication?

The jury came to the conclusion that the death of Sarah Reed was self-inflicted at a time where she was not balanced in her mind. However, they were not convinced that she intended to take her own life. This was the verdict, despite the prison giving the family two conflicting stories about how she was found dead in the first instance. They concluded that Sarah did not receive adequate enough treatment for her high levels of distress and that the failure of prison psychiatrists to manage Sarah’s medication contributed to her death. The failure to complete the fitness to plead assessment in a timely manner also  contributed to her death.


Sarah was taken off her antipsychotic medication due to concerts with her heart which led to the deterioration of her mind.  According to the inquest into her death, she exhibited chanting, banging and spitting, being in a trance-like state and screaming in the last days of her being alive. Sarah’s psychiatrist only treated her on the basis of being diagnosed for emotionally unstable personality disorder. They failed to treat her for her other mental health issues, including psychotic disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.

Sarah was being monitored on suicide and self-harm processes known as ACCT (Assessment, Care in Custody & Teamwork). Even though her condition was getting worse, staff reduced the twice hourly check on her, to only a single hourly check. The jury came to the conclusion that this reduction was not acceptable seeing as there was clear evidence she was severely mentally unstable. 

In the last weeks of her life, Sarah had meetings with her family and lawyer cancelled with no justifiable reason put on record. This happened despite her remanded status entitling her to daily visits. The inquest also read that from January 7th, up to her death, Sarah’s cell was not cleaned and remained filthy. She was not given showers and virtually kept in isolation. She spent her last days tormented, locked in a cell behind a screen with no visitors or phone calls to her family or friends, or proper interaction with staff members.

Further information.

If you want to find out more about  other victims of police and state violence in the UK, click here.

The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where restraint is a feature is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where use of force is a feature is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where mental health-related issues are a feature is nearly two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody.

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