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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 20:01 GMT
Landmark ruling on inquest juries
Prison officer with keys
Sheena Creamer killed herself in her cell at New Hall prison
The House of Lords has made a landmark ruling to quash an inquest verdict and order a new hearing into how a South Yorkshire woman died in jail.

Sheena Creamer, 22, was on suicide watch in New Hall Prison near Wakefield but used a curtain to hang herself.

A coroner did not give the jury the chance to add a rider to its suicide verdict indicating neglect.

Law lords have now ruled that inquest juries are entitled to add such riders in cases of deaths in custody.

Request refused

But they added the provision that juries do not point the finger of blame at individuals or decide liability.

Ms Creamer, from Rotherham, was found dead in August 2000 after a doctor advised she was not a risk to herself and should be transferred from the prison's health care centre to a residential wing.

West Yorkshire coroner David Hinchliffe had refused a request from Ms Creamer's mother, Helen Sacker, that the jury should have the chance to add a rider to its suicide verdict that neglect had contributed to her killing herself.

On Thursday, Lords Bingham, Hope, Walker and Carswell and Baroness Hale said that in appropriate circumstances such inquests should "culminate in an expression, however brief, of the jury's conclusion on the disputed factual issues at the heart of the case".

But there must be no finding of criminal liability on the part of a named person, and words suggesting civil liability, such as "neglect" or "carelessness", should be avoided.

In the Creamer case, a new inquest has been ordered.

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