Charlotte Nokes inquest: Artist caught in 'perfect storm'

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Charlotte Nokes
Image caption,
Charlotte Nokes was jailed for 15 months in 2008 but had served eight years at the time of her death

An artist who died while serving an indefinite prison term was caught in a "perfect storm" of hopelessness and injustice, an inquest heard.

Charlotte Nokes, 38, was jailed for 15 months in 2008 but had served more than eight years when she died in July 2016.

Ms Nokes was being held at HMP Peterborough under an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence.

An inquest jury at Huntingdon Town Hall concluded that she died of natural causes.

Ms Nokes, who had been on suicide watch, suffered sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) alone in her cell, the hearing was told.

Image source, NOKES FAMILY
Image caption,
Charlotte Nokes died in 2016 after being in prison for more than eight years

IPP sentences were introduced in 2005 to ensure dangerous offenders stayed in custody for as long as they presented a risk to society.

Prisoners such as Nokes, from Hayling Island, near Portsmouth, were given a minimum term, but not a maximum one.

IPPs were abolished for new prisoners in 2012.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) said that by the end of 2019 there were 2,134 IPP prisoners - of which 93% had served beyond their initial tariff.

Image source, NOKES FAMILY
Image caption,
Charlotte Nokes as a child. "She was an absolute darling," said her mother

Cambridgeshire coroner, Simon Millburn, said Ms Nokes had "expressed hopelessness about her IPP sentence".

A family statement said the IPP had been "a source of great distress", adding: "At times she was in a dark place."

Ms Nokes, who suffered from borderline personality disorder, already had a lengthy criminal record when she was given a minimum term of 15 months for attempted robbery and possession of a bladed weapon.

She had been receiving injections of an anti-psychotic medication following "a hostage-taking incident in 2015", Mr Milburn said.

Health professionals raised concerns that she appeared "heavily sedated", "slurring her speech", he added, but there was no evidence of an overdose or illicit drugs in her system.

Image source, NOKES FAMILY
Image caption,
Ms Nokes was a talented artist and had won an art school scholarship on her release, her family said

Her father, Steven Nokes, said: "Prison was never the best place for her. Charlotte lost hope and so did we.

"Despite her hopes and dreams of moving to London to study art, she knew she would die in prison."

Dr Dinesh Daganty, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, earlier told the hearing he could see "Charlotte Nokes was caught in a perfect storm, with a lack of hope, a sense of injustice and a personality disorder".

"The rate of death on those serving IPP sentences is disproportionately high because of this loss of a sense of hope", he added.

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