A police sergeant said he was “willing to take the risk” to leave a young woman in hospital on her own after she was found at a clifftop - despite concerns from junior officers.

Rachel Garrett, 22, was found on the top of cliffs on July 28, 2020, where she was recovered by police officers and taken to hospital. Her mother was then taken to the hospital to stay with her and help ensure she would not leave.

On arriving at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, mum Sarah was told by a mental health nurse that her daughter had become “agitated” and would not see her. Despite an officer saying she felt “uncomfortable” leaving Rachel in hospital on her own, the sergeant in charge defended his decision to stand down officers accompanying her.

PC Isobel Dalloway expressed concern that Rachel would have no one with her if officers and mental health nurses were stood down.

The Argus: Rachel GarrettRachel Garrett (Image: Family handout)

An inquest into Rachel's death also heard from an Independent Office for Police Conduct report that PCSO Danny Heath, also at the hospital, called the decision not to detain Rachel “quite poor” and said it would be “failing to safeguard her”.

Sussex Police sergeant Alvin Lee told the inquest: “I still thought there were significant things in place for her to get support.”

The court heard that PS Lee said he was “willing to take the risk” to leave her alone at the time of the incident.

Previously PS Lee dismissed the PCSO’s opinion, saying: “Even if I was aware of his opinion I would have discounted it.”

Rachel’s family assert that there were insufficient measures to stop their daughter from leaving the hospital and that she should have been detained by police and mental health staff.

Emma Favata, a lawyer for the family, told the court: “There is a catalogue of failings where Rachel was not taken seriously.”

The Argus: Rachel GarrettRachel Garrett (Image: Family handout)

The court heard that despite the family’s concerns, Rachel did remain in hospital and received a mental health assessment, with Kris Burlevy, counsel for the Sussex Police chief constable, adding: “The evidence is that she was calm and compliant.”

However, Rachel later died after absconding from hospital on a separate occasion and falling from the same cliffs at Brighton Marina on July 29, 2020, the day after she was taken to A&E.

In a previous statement read out to court, parents Sarah and Andy said: “Rachel’s passion, vitality and effervescence were the joyful, beating heart of our family."

Rachel was also a drummer for Brighton band grasshopper who played at a number of festivals including the Isle of Wight festival and Kendal Calling.


The inquest heard how, after beginning to study at Bath Spa University, Rachel's mental health deteriorated further having suffered a six year history of problems.

Prior to her death, the court heard, Rachel had attempted to commit suicide five times in the space of four weeks with a number of trips to the cliffs near Brighton Marina.

In excerpts from her diary read to the court previously, Rachel wrote: “I am rapidly deteriorating and my life feels like it’s crumbling before me.

"I don’t understand how bad you are supposed to get before they help you.”

The inquest also heard that Rachel had written to doctors at Meadowview hospital in Worthing, where she was being treated, begging them to allow her to stay longer.

In the letter, she wrote: “I think a few weeks in hospital where I don’t self-harm and work with staff will reduce my likelihood of becoming a revolving door patient.

The Argus: Rachel performing with grasshopperRachel performing with grasshopper (Image: Family handout)

“Please, please let me prove to you that this admission longer than Thursday will be different because my aim is to stop self-harming so drastically that I raise the likelihood of me coming into hospital again.”

Rachel's parents continued in their statement:“We felt we were in a dangerously escalating emergency situation. She had lost her ability to fight back and we felt we were losing the real Rachel.

"She was crying out for help. In our view we cannot reconcile on what basis services did not protect her by detaining her. How many serious cries for help does a young person need to make before they are listened to and taken seriously?”

A Sussex Police spokesman previously said the force were fully supporting the coronial process.

The inquest, overseen by senior coroner Penelope Schofield, continues and is planned to go on into next month.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are there – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.