Pause a moment for Sarah…
Written by: Tippa Naphtali
The 18th January 2010 marked 7 years since the death of Sarah Campbell, who took her own life after critical failings in the duty of care owed to her by the officers and staff of Styal Prison, Cheshire.
Her mother, Pauline Campbell, took to an unflinching journey of protest and quest for justice and reforms, which saw her arrested at several demonstrations outside women’s prisons. Sadly, 5 years later, Pauline also took her own life still torn with a mother’s grief from the loss of her only child.
Pauline had been a tireless campaigner against deaths of women in custody since the tragic death of her daughter, and she was awarded the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize in October 2005. The prize is awarded each year to a woman or group who has, through their actions, writing or campaigning; raised awareness of violence against women and children.
Pauline was committed not just to campaigning but also to helping INQUEST’s work in supporting bereaved families. She was one of a number of bereaved parents who turned their own personal loss into a collective response to injustice and state neglect.
Following Pauline’s death, acclaimed poet and writer, Benjamin Zephaniah, said:
“I am in shock. Not so long ago I appeared on a television programme with Pauline. She spoke passionately on the programme about the plight of women in prisons and after the programme we spoke about how we could raise the profile of our campaigns using the media.
“She was full of life and looking forward. Over the last few years she has been ever-present at important moments in our struggle having the ability to appear anywhere regardless of distance. She came to us because of a personal tragedy nevertheless it is hard to imagine marching without her. But be strong people, one way or another she will be with us in our victory of good over evil”.
Sarah, who had suffered from clinical depression, was jailed for manslaughter in January 2003, a day later she was dead. The 18-year-old apparently died after taking an overdose of prescription drugs at Styal Prison in Cheshire.
Pauline had been calling for Prison Service changes ever since her daughters death. She welcomed the chief inspector of prisons’ report calling for women such as Sarah to be sent to secure units.
Pauline said “My daughter should have been sent to a secure hospital, not to a jail, and if that had happened I think it’s very likely she would still be alive.”