‘I could well die in here’: The story of Charlotte Nokes and the thousands still locked up on indefinite sentences
Nokes died in prison and her family still don’t know why. Harriet Marsden looks at the complex history of imprisonment for public protection sentences, which kept this woman away from care she desperately needed
Life is fleeting, life is precious, and I have wasted too much time in oblivion. So wrote Charlotte Nokes while she was a prisoner at HMP Peterborough. She was originally sentenced to a minimum term of 15 months, but by the time she was found dead in her cell on 23 July 2016, she had served more than eight and a half years.
Charlotte had been given an indefinite – and since abolished – imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentence, one of the most controversial punishments in British justice history. She believed she would never be released, and told her family multiple times that the IPP was her death sentence. She was the first woman under an IPP sentence to die in prison.
In the months leading up to her death, Charlotte was receiving heavy doses of medication to treat her mental and physical health diagnoses of borderline personality disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a severe form of premenstrual syndrome). She appeared heavily sedated and could barely talk. But the day before she died, her family say, she was thrilled to have been notified by the Home Office that she would be moved from prison to a therapeutic psychiatric unit as her parole board had recommended. She was still on suicide watch, and was supposed to be checked on twice an hour, but by the time she was pronounced dead at 8:55am the next morning, her body was cold. There was no evidence of suicide.