THE mother of a transgender prisoner from Keighley who died in Leeds Prison remains "deeply distressed" by the loss of her daughter following the conclusion of an inquest into the tragedy.
The inquest jury concluded it was right for 21-year-old Vikki Thompson to be held in a male jail – but also found she was let down by a range of services, as well as her family.
Vikki was found dead in her cell at the prison in November 2015.
An inquest into her death finished today (May 19) with a jury concluding she did not intend to take her own life.
Philip Goldberg, managing director of Minton Morrill Solicitors, commenting after the hearing on behalf of Vikki's family, said: "Vikki’s case is a deeply tragic one.
"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.
"Vikki identified as a woman from a young age and was vulnerable because of her complex history of sexual and violent abuse, drug use and mental health problems.
"Vikki’s vulnerabilities echo many of those experienced by women who find themselves in the criminal justice system.
"Just a few months before she was remanded into HMP Leeds for the first time in March 2015 for offences of theft, she had provided evidence to WYP to support three allegations of sexual offences against her, which at the time of her death were still being investigated.
"When Vikki went into HMP Leeds in October 2015 she told staff that she would “come out in a box”.
"Her death echoes the experiences of other vulnerable prisoners who have died whilst in custody at Leeds."
Earlier today, the inquest jury foreman said: "Throughout her chaotic life, Vikki has been let down by various departments, including the NHS, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, the Prison Service and also by her family.
"Although these departments were individually aware of Vikki's history, the overall co-ordination of her mental and health state were lacking in any form of organisational structure.
"During her last stay at HMP Leeds, the management of her treatment and mental state of mind were also lacking in professionalism and inadequate for an individual of such complex issues."
He added: "On October 19, 2015, Vikki was remanded to HMP Leeds, a male prison, and we, the jury, feel this was the right one for Vikki.
"More attention should have been paid to Vikki as a transgender woman with a history from a previous stay in the prison."
At the beginning of the two-week inquest in Wakefield, Miss Thompson's partner, Robert Steele, told the jury she did not want to be in a male jail and wrote to him saying: "I know I'm going to do something silly."
The court was told she had repeatedly told prison and court escort staff she would be "carried out in a box".
But, in a statement read to the court, Miss Thompson's mother, Lisa Harrison, said her daughter did not say she had a problem being in a male prison.
The inquest was told Miss Thompson had identified as female since she was ten, but had never had any surgical or hormone treatment.
The coroner said she did not have a Gender Recognition Certificate establishing her female identity so she was sent to a male prison.
The jury heard about the extensive drug, alcohol, mental health and other problems Miss Thompson had experienced in her life.
She was subjected to hourly checks at Leeds Prison, but not put on the vulnerable prisoners' wing to begin with as staff feared she would be in danger from sex offenders.
She was eventually moved to the vulnerable prisoners' wing at her own request.
She was found dead in her cell on November 13 2015 with a ligature around her neck.