Transgender prisoner Vikki Thompson did not mean to kill herself, inquest finds

Gerard Tubb, North of England Correspondent

A transgender prisoner who killed herself at HMP Leeds did not mean to do so and was let down by those who should have helped her, according to an inquest jury.

Vikki Thompson, 21, died in November 2015 in her cell, despite being on one hour suicide watch in the vulnerable prisoners' wing of the all-male prison.

The inquest heard evidence that she may not have realised how quickly she could become unconscious.

Ms Thompson, who had a history of addiction and mental health issues, had lived as a woman since her school days but had not taken steps to have her gender recognised in law.

The three week inquest heard conflicting evidence about her willingness to be sent to a male prison following a breach of conditions imposed for a shoplifting offence.

In a written narrative conclusion, the jury, which had been instructed to answer specific questions by Wakefield Coroner Jonathan Leach, said Leeds Prison "was the right one for Vikki."

But they were sharply critical of the management of her care as a transgender woman at the Leeds jail, saying she had been let down "throughout her chaotic life" by the NHS, the Prison Service, and her family.

In a statement, her family's lawyer, Philip Goldberg, said she was one of three transgender women to die within a male prison estate in the past 18 months.

"Vikki's mother remains deeply distressed by the loss of her daughter. Yet hopes that if any good is to come of her death, it's that the Ministry of Justice also undertakes a complete overhaul of HMP Leeds," he said.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said in a statement that the department will "carefully consider" the jury's findings.

"We recognise that there were failings in (Vikki's) care, and HMP Leeds has already put in place a number of measures to better support offenders," it said.

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