No More Lies About Deaths In Custody

An official report published today has revealed that, for the second time in just over a month a Prison Officer lied when she signed forms to say she had conducted physical security checks on prisoners when later evidence showed she could not have done as one of the prisoners she claimed to have checked on, Daryl Brimfield, was actually hanging dead in his cell at the time.

Moreover there was a litany of failures at High Down prison with Mr Brimfield, who arrived with suicide and self harm warning forms that were ignored by the prison and just days before his death a teacher noticed he had self harmed but took no action at all.

The Ombudsman’s report stated:

Mr Daryl Brimfield was found hanged in his cell at HMP High Down on 29 August 2019. He was 27 years old.

Mr Brimfield had been at High Down for only a week when he was found hanged. I am concerned that prison and healthcare staff failed to consider all the documentation that arrived with him on 22 August, including a suicide and self-harm warning form, and they therefore failed to assess his risk properly. As a result, he was not managed under self- harm and suicide procedures (known as ACCT) which would have provided him with additional support.

Two days before Mr Brimfield died, an education worker saw that he had self-harmed by cutting his arms. She did not start ACCT procedures or tell prison or healthcare staff. This was a missed opportunity to put supportive measures in place.

Mr Brimfield never had a mental health assessment at High Down, despite a referral being made on 23 August, which should have been actioned within 72 hours.

Mr Brimfield was found hanged when his cell was unlocked shortly after 8.00am. There were signs he had been dead for some time. There was a delay in finding Mr Brimfield, as the early morning roll check that should have been carried out around 6.00am was not done, even though an officer signed to say she had done the check. Although the delay is unlikely to have affected the outcome because Mr Brimfield was probably dead at 6.00am, I am very concerned that an officer recorded that she had completed the roll check when she had not done so.

Last month, in another fatal incident report, this time concerning the death of Steven Bennett at HM Prison Channings Wood, another Prison Officer lied when he signed to say he had conducted checks that were not carried out – and this was made worse by the officer unlocking the cells later in the morning who did not even bother to look into the cell and so missed the dead prisoner completely.

The Ombudsman Report stated:

Mr Bennett was found dead in his cell by a prisoner, shortly after 9.00am. The morning roll check that should have been carried out at 8.30am was not done, even though an officer signed to say he had done the check. An officer unlocked Mr Bennett’s cell shortly before 9.00am but did not even look into the cell. The correct procedure is for officers to get a response from the prisoner at morning unlock.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales and The Prison Oracle prisons website called the circumstances of these deaths ‘nothing less than criminal throughout’.

Mr Leech said:

This is the second time in a little over a month where reports have shown prison officers lying when signing to say they had carried out checks on prisoners that they actually never conducted at all, and had they done so they would have spotted the prisoner dead in their cells.

These are criminal offences of misconduct in public office, HM Prison and Probation Service refuses to say whether the officers are still employed or whether criminal prosecutions followed – but there have been a number of examples where Prison Officers in the past have received suspended sentences for criminal acts such as these – two 0fficers at HMP Preston and another in a major case in northern Ireland where the officer on duty rolled out a mattress and went to sleep failing to notice the prisoner in a CCTV-Covered cell he was supposed to be watching laying slumped dead against his cell door.

The death of this prisoner at High Down, and last month’s at Channings Wood was nothing less than criminal throughout and, as a matter of routine, they should result in dismissal for gross misconduct and reports to the police – instead they appear to have been quietly swept under the carpet.

View The Prison Oracle full death in custody database here >>