A tribute to Pauline Campbell

// 16 May 2008

Pauline Campbell was found dead by her daughter’s grave yesterday. Since spent the last five years campaiging on the deaths of women in prison, after her own 18-year-old daughter died of an overdose at Styal prison. In this guest post, Louise Whittle pays tribute (cross-posted from Harpymarx)

Pauline CampbellPauline Campbell was a loving mother, a generous hearted woman, and a human being of indescribable bravery.” (Frances Crook, Howard League)

I first heard Pauline Campbell speak at a meeting in March 2007 organised by Women in Prison (WIP) regarding the publication of the Corston Review. She spoke eloquently and passionately about her daughter Sarah (who died in Styal Prison in 2003) and the overall treatment of women in prison.

I wrote a piece about her campaigning work highlighting the shocking number of women dying in prison on Socialist Unity blog, and she contacted me.

I eventually got to meet Pauline when I attended Macclesfield Magistrates court with her in March 2008 for a pre-trial review. She had been arrested for the 15th time and for obstruction. I admired Pauline’s boldness and conviction when she stated her case in court. Pauline later wrote: “Events in court today had to be seen to be believed. I have never before felt so dehumanised.” That comment from Pauline summed up my own reactions.The bureaucracy and the utter minefield of the proceedings showed up the lack of compassion and responsiveness of the court.

In early May, the CPS decided afterall to abandon the trial (it was set for late July-early August) due to not being in the public interest. The emotional impact the court case had on her was immeasurable and soul destroying:

“From start to finish, this senseless prosecution was a waste of the court’s time, a scandalous waste of public money, and an enormous drain on my emotional health. Yet another attempt to criminalise and punish me has failed, and the CPS and the Attorney General have met with a barrage of letters complaining about the vindictive nature of the case, demanding to know how the prosecution could be in the public interest (I have seen copies of some of these letters).”

I am glad I met and corresponded with Pauline as she was bold, intelligent, funny and strong. Her energy and tenacity illustrated her defiance and how she was only too willing to speak out against hidden injustices and for the powerless. And her love for Sarah.

As INQUEST says: “Borne out of experience, Pauline became a formidable campaigner committed to exposing the injustices and inhumanity of the treatment of women in prison”.

We can learn so much by her example. I will miss her deeply.

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 16 May 2008 at 1:29 pm

Thank you Louise for writing this tribute in respect of Pauline Campbell. I only heard Ms. Campbell speak once but she had an immense effect on me. I didn’t know the extent to which women prisoners are routinely subjected to institutionalised indifference and dehumanisation. I also did not realise the extent to which our bureacratic institutions will go to in attempting to silence those who oppose injustice. Even more so when injustice is about women’s rights and issues.

Ms. Campbell was a human being who refused to remain silent and yes it takes real courage to speak out when so many remain silent. This to me is real courage because it is so much harder when facing such powerful opposition.

Danny // Posted 16 May 2008 at 3:06 pm

I don’t dispute anything you write about Pauline Campbell, or that women in prison are often treated disgracefully and denied basic human rights and dignity. But I think we ought to remember that Ms Campbell’s daughter had not been in prison for no reason; she and a friend harassed an elderly man for money and because of this ordeal he had a heart attack and died. I can’t feel a lot of sympathy for people who do things like that, no matter what excuses they might give.

yeomanpip // Posted 16 May 2008 at 3:50 pm

Such a sad story,

Unfortunately I know little of Pauline Campbell, do you have any links please?

And Thankyou for your post.

Louise Whittle // Posted 16 May 2008 at 3:57 pm

In reply to yeomanpip, have a read of this interview of Pauline by Simon Hattenstone from The Guardian.


Julie Bindel in today’s Guardian


cb // Posted 16 May 2008 at 9:29 pm

Very sad news yesterday. She was inspiring although tragedy drove her into a campaigning role.

Zana Eka-Naphtali // Posted 18 May 2008 at 12:26 am

I only met Pauline once when she spoke at one of our events. We spoke very briefly and in that time I could feel the double torment and power of this remarkable woman.

She really wore her loss on her face even through all that grit, determination and humour.

We have set up a memorial blog in her honour. See it here: http://remember-pauline.blogspot.com/

Rest in peace dear sister!

Dot Thomas // Posted 18 May 2008 at 5:01 am

Pauline was such a inspiration I will miss her so much.

Louise // Posted 1 June 2008 at 6:54 am

Is anyone aware of what happened to Ms Woolley? If most women in British prisons have a mental health problem then it is highly likely that she had one too. I wonder what the repeated insinuations that she was partially responsible for Sarah Campbell’s death did to her. Still, it’s easier to idolise the dead than it is to help the living.

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