Prison suicide: Family of Grimsby man back coroner's call for staff to be given better guidance
THE family of a Grimsby man who took his own life while inside Hull Prison have welcomed a coroner's call for prison staff to be given better guidance for dealing with potentially suicidal prisoners.
Andrew Needham, 44, died on March 2 last year after placing a plastic bag over his head and tying a ligature round his neck. He was found unconscious in his cell at around 8.10am, and pronounced dead about 20 minutes later.
As reported, Mr Needham, who had a history of psychological problems, was on remand awaiting trial on a charge of wounding and possessing an offensive weapon.
Now, Hull Coroner Geoffrey Saul has recommended changes to the prison service to protect vulnerable and suicidal prisoners, after the inquest into Mr Needham's death found that he had not been given "adequate mental health care" while in prison.
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Mr Needham's mother Constance, his brother and two sisters hope the recommendations will help prevent unnecessary deaths in the future.
In a report following the inquest, Mr Saul said he was concerned that staff at Hull still did not fully understand or appreciate national guidelines and policies intended to protect prisoners from suicide and self-harm, and he called for staff to be given clearer procedures and faster access to prisoners' medical records.
An independent investigation conducted by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman found that Mr Needham was a vulnerable man who had been clearly and correctly identified as being of high risk of self-harm by both police officers and by the escort staff who took him to prison.
However, the ombudsman found that prison staff at Hull did not act on what should have been ample warnings and he therefore made a number of recommendations for action, including improvements to the way prisoners are assessed and managed on entering prison.
The jury at the inquest into Mr Needham's death returned a narrative verdict and concluded that Assessment and Care in Custody Teamwork (ACCT) plans should have been opened on at least two occasions in February 2011 as Suicide and Self Harm (SASH) forms were already active when Mr Needham entered prison.
They said: "Evidence shows ACCT plans must be opened in these circumstances. On the balance of probabilities the failure to open ACCT plans contributed to Mr Needham's death as he was not given the benefits of adequate mental health care."
Lawyer Danielle Barney of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire law firm Bridge McFarland Solicitors, who represented Mr Needham's family at pre-inquest hearings and is acting for them in a claim for breach of his human rights, said: "While the inquest has been a difficult and emotional process for the family, they are satisfied that a full inquiry into the events surrounding Andrew's untimely death has now taken place.
"Family members very much hope that the coroner's recommendations to HMP Hull and the prison's healthcare service will help prevent unnecessary deaths in the future and ensure that other families do not have to go through the same ordeal.
"Andrew's parents and brother and sisters hope that the coroner's recommendations will reinforce the recommendations already made by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman and that, out of the tragic loss of their son and brother, lessons will be learned and systems will be improved for the future."