Lack of 24-hour watch on prisoner at Rye Hill jail led to death of vulnerable young man

09Jan09

michael-bailey2all credits: Northampton Chronicle
published – 8th January 2009

A vulnerable prisoner, whose mental health deteriorated while he was isolated in jail before he killed himself, should have been on a 24-hour watch, said a retired prison health boss.

Speaking at the second day of the inquest on Michael Bailey, who was found hanged in his cell at Rye Hill Prison, near Daventry, in 2005, Yvonne Frances criticised the lack of communication between prison guards and on-site health workers.

Ms Fran, who was bought in by Northamptonshire Police to investigate the suicide and self harm (SASH) policy at the prison in 2005, said a mental health expert should have been contacted when Mr Bailey told prison officers he wanted to be baptised because he was “ready to die”.

She said: “I think that such a strong statement would probably bring me to consider Mr Bailey’s mental well-being and I would probably ask an expert to comment on what this indicated.

“Had I been involved in this incident, I like to think that what would have happened is there would have been an urgent case review, and a decision about the level of watch that Michael was receiving would have been taken, which would have certainly increased to an intermittent watch. It’s quite possible that I would have insisted that it was a constant watch after the incident in the exercise yard.”

The jury heard how, in March 2005, Mr Bailey had stripped naked in the segregation unit’s exercise yard and crouched in the corner, mumbling the Lord’s Prayer for more than 30 minutes, only months before he would have been eligible for parole.

Prison officers at Rye Hill had been checking 23-year-old Mr Bailey at regular 10-minute intervals after classing him “at risk” of suicide or self-harm. His suicide note, addressed to his mother, was attached to his file, but details about Mr Bailey’s behaviour were not passed on to health workers.

Greg Coveney, a prison officer who supervised Mr Bailey in the segregation unit, admitted observation logs had not been filled in correctly and said: “I would accept that the procedures were not being followed. “I would say it was part of the pressure I was under to get other things done.”

The inquest was adjourned until tomorrow (Friday 9th Dec) but is expected to continue for up to six weeks.

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