Jury’s concern over assaulted prisoner

Stephen Connell
Stephen Connell
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The family of a Wigan-born man found hanged at Hindley Prison after being seriously assaulted have voiced hopes that lessons can be learned from his death.

Stephen Connell later reported to prison officers that he had taken an overdose of paracetamol and started confining himself to his cell.

The 20-year-old was later found hanging in his cell and died in hospital two days later.

Jurors at an inquest into his death ruled that he died as a result of self-suspension - but his intentions remained at the time remained unclear.

And they expressed concerns that prison officers had failed to reconsider his “privileges” in the days leading up to his death.

His lawyers say Stephen had refused to leave his cell amid fears for his own

safety, which had earned him a number of negative entries for the prison’s Incentive and Earned Privilege (IEP) scheme.

The inquest heard he complained about being in his cell all day, that he may be hearing voices and had asked for a TV, which he was not entitled to under the IEP initiative.

He was told his IEP status would remain at a “basic” level, on the morning of his death, as he had been sanctioned four times for not attending prison activities.

Speaking after the hearing, close friend Kieran McLaughlin and his sister Laura Ollerhead, said they were pleased jurors had recognised the prison’s failings regarding Stephen’s death.

In a joint statement, they said: “We understand that there are some changes being implemented in the prison to ensure a key worker scheme is put into place.

“We would urge the prison to act urgently to ensure that there is no further delay.”

The pair also paid tribute to the Love, Jasmine bereavement charity, for supporting their attendance at court.

Stephen grew up in the Wigan area but later moved to Birkenhead, where he lived with his adopted family. Kieran launched a Crowdfunder appeal to pay for legal representation at the inquest.

Leanne Devine, of Liverpool-based solicitors Broudie Jackson Canter, said the importance of personal officers at the prison, which was highlighted following the hanging of 17-year-old Jake Hardy at Hindley in 2012, had again emerged as an issue.

She added: “This is yet another tragic death of a young care leaver with a reported history of self harm and attempted suicide.

“Why are the concerns raised by these vulnerable young people in custody not being addressed?”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “This is a tragic case and our deepest sympathies are with Stephen Connell’s family and friends.

“The welfare of those in our custody is our absolute priority, and we will carefully consider the inquest findings to see what lessons can be learned.

“The prison has already improved its monitoring of vulnerable offenders, and provided specialised staff training to address recommendations from the ombudsman’s investigation.”