CAMPAIGNERS are calling for action after the number of women committing suicide in prison during 2003 rose to a record.

Fourteen women inmates took their lives in prisons across England and Wales last year.

One of the worst suicide rates was at New Hall, Flockton, where three women killed themselves.

The Howard League for Penal Reform, which published the figures, said it was a shameful situation.

Anita Dockley, the league's assistant director, said: "We do not anticipate the numbers falling while the prison population continues to surge and the system remains under such stress.

"The number of prison suicides will only fall when the numbers in prison are radically reduced and the strategies for dealing with suicide and self- harm are properly realised.

"We call on the Government to act immediately to reduce the number of people behind bars," said Ms Dockley.

The figure compares with the previous record of nine suicides in 2002.

Eighty male prisoners took their lives in 2003, said the Howard League survey.

Officials at New Hall said today they were doing all they could to combat deaths at the prison.

Tony Ellis, the prison's head of operations, said: "An increasing number of prisoners are arriving addicted to substances and with mental health problems.

"Our strategy is to carry out risk assessments and to place prisoners appropriately," he added.