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Jury finds prison communication failings contributed to death of vulnerable young man

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An inquest jury has found that a breakdown in communication between three prisons contributed to the death of a vulnerable young man at HMP Stafford in January 2012.

Kieron Dowdall (24) had been transferred to HMP North Sea camp, an open establishment as part of his release plan however he was returned to closed conditions at HMP Lincoln after he absconded with the intention of ending his life. Whilst at Lincoln he slit his wrists leading to an Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) procedure being undertaken to help prevent further self-harm. However Mr Dowdall was then transferred to HMP Stafford and the ACCT paperwork did not travel with him. Mr Dowdall subsequently took his own life in his cell on 27th January 2012. He had been placed in a cell without a cellmate. 

The papers related to ACCT involvement had been posted and faxed to HMP Stafford however one was filed away and the other remained unopened until after Mr Dowdall's death.

Mr Dowdall's mother Doreen Williams told the court that Kieron had been unaware of the reason for his transfer to HMP Stafford as he had been expecting a return to HMP North Sea Camp. It is thought that this lack of communication and confusion had added to Mr Dowdall's vulnerable mental state.

The coroner Andrew Haigh highlighted the importance of ensuring that fragile prisoners are not left alone and that communication between different prisons is clear and open.

A statement from the family released after the verdict said; 'We are grateful for the jury's findings and the way they approached the case.'  
 
The three prisons in question were reported to have amended their procedures in light of the inquest and Prison Ombudsman's findings.
Inquest proceedings into the death of a loved one can be a highly distressing and difficult experience. The stress can also often be compounded by complex and unfamiliar court proceedings.The civil liberties team at Stephensons have extensive experience of advising and assisting family members through inquest proceedings including a number of high profile cases. If you require any inquest or prison law advice please do not hesitate to contact us on 0333 344 4772.

By Emma McClure, human rights & civil liberties team 

 

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