Prisons must learn from our Simon’s cell suicide
5:00pm Thursday 16th June 2011
THE family of a Colchester man who hanged himself in a cell say they hope the prison service has learnt from its mistakes.
Simon Gregory, 36, of Sycamore Road, took his own life at Chelmsford Prison days after he was arrested for allegedly stealing clothes from Gap, in Culver Street, Colchester.
The father-of-four had cut his wrists, repeatedly asked to speak to the Samaritans and told cellmates and prison staff he was suicidal.
An inquest jury found failings in care, support and equipment, and staff shortages, had contributed to his death.
Mr Gregory had been in prison for three days when he was found dead on November 27, 2007.
The jury heard Mr Gregory was assessed and identified as a suicide risk and his family had raised serious concerns about whether the prison was looking after him properly.
On the night of his death, one prison officer was responsible for 126 prisioners on E wing, having already worked all day.
The inquest heard there was no handover and the officer had no time to read the comments in Mr Gregory’s record, which said he was desperate and in need of support.
It also found there was a lack of essential equipment to deal with a medical emergency.
A prison nurse said no defibrillator was taken to Mr Gregory’s cell when he was found hanging because it was cumbersome, old and did not work very well.
Katrina White, 25, Mr Gregory’s sister, from Derbyshire, said his family had found some solace in the inquest’s verdict. She said: “Simon was a kind and loving father, son and brother.
“Simon’s death, which we firmly believe could have been avoided, has left a big hole in our lives.
“I hope this will encourage HMP Chelmsford and others caring for vulnerable people in custody to improve the care provided to prisoners like Simon.”
Mr Gregory had lived in Derbyshire and Ipswich before moving to Colchester.
Kat Craig, solicitor for the family, said: “Mr Gregory’s death is a tragic example of a failure on behalf of the prison to adequately intervene and respond to an acute need for support and care.
“The jury’s findings on this point are a firm indication that more should have been done, and that the prison was ill-equipped and under-resourced to deal with vulnerable prisoners.”
A spokesman for the National Offender Management Service said: “The service will consider the inquest findings to see what lessons can be learnt in addition to those already learnt from the investigation conducted by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.”
The inquest jury at Chelmsford returned a verdict of suicide on Tuesday.
It said the suicide was in part because of a failure to recognise the risk to the prisoner through inappropriate care and support, inadequate staffing levels and lack of essential medical emergency equipment.