Vikki ThompsonAge 21
13 Nov 2015
Armley, Leeds, West Yorkshire (United Kingdom)
Died in custody
TDoR list ref: tgeu/13-Nov-2015/Vikki Thompson
Vikki died by hanging in a cell in HMP Leeds, a Category B men's prison.
Thompson feared sexual assault which she had previously been subjected to during another sentence in the prison, and transphobic bullying was rife. Frequently receiving unwanted sexual solicitations and being at the receiving end of bullying, it's clear that this was the wrong environment for an already extremely vulnerable woman. Little was done in response to Thompson's mistreatment whilst in prison; a security report was not completed after she reported bullying, and neither were victim support proceedings carried out.
When she was checked at 7pm, Vikki was seen lying on her bed, giving no cause for concern, the inquest heard.
But at a later check at 8.10pm she could not be seen - so staff went into her cell.
Emergency services were called and she was pronounced dead 38 minutes later. A post-mortem examination found the cause of death was thought to be hanging.
Vikki had previously said she would kill herself if she was sent to a male prison. An inquest heard that she was considered to be "at risk of self-harm".
The Ministry of Justice has been called “at best incompetent and at worst inhumane” after the “deeply tragic” death of a young transgender woman who was sent to a men’s jail.
"This was a death waiting to happen...There was no consideration of the gender she had openly identified with for half her life".
Philip Goldberg, the lawyer for Ms Thompson’s family, also strongly criticised HMP Leeds.
“Vikki’s case is a deeply tragic one,” Mr Goldberg said. “She is one of three transgender women to die within the male prison estate since November 2015. Yes, Vikki was a transgender woman housed in a male prison but like many others in prison her vulnerability did not make her unique. It was the responsibility of HMP Leeds to ensure she was properly looked after and safe.
“The jury heard that Vikki experienced bullying and sexual harassment on E-Wing that caused her to self-harm before she was moved to the Vulnerable Prisoner’s wing. HMP Leeds has the second-highest number of self-inflicted deaths in the UK and an inability to learn from their mistakes. 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 added that “a radical shift in prison staff culture and training was needed to protect transgender prisoners.”
Just a month before Vikki's death, trans campaigners had successfully managed to get Tara Hudson moved from HMP Bristol - another male prison - to a female institution after a demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice presented a petition with over 159,000 signatures.
A month later Joanne Latham was found dead in a male prison at HMP Woodhill, Milton Keynes.
TvT project: The Daily Mail & BBC, 20.11.2015