Coroner told prisoner who died could have been helped

A fellow prisoner felt he could have helped to prevent the death of a Hindley Prison inmate who was not coping with life behind bars.

Thursday, 12th July 2018, 9:24 am
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:40 pm
Hindley Prison

Veteran inmate Alan Hughes became friendly with Anthony Hill at the jail as he knew his brother and they came from the same area, Bolton Coroners Court was told.

But Hughes, who estimated he had been in custody, on and off, for 30 years became concerned that Hill, who had been served with a restraining order by a former partner, was becoming more downbeat, an inquest heard.

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And he lobbied senior officers in a bid to get the 35-year-old moved to his wing, or even his own cell, so he could “keep an eye on him”.

Hill was found hanging in his cell, in early March 2017, by prison officers, with the words ‘hard to cope’ scrawled on his arm. He had refused to leave his cell for ‘association’ shortly beforehand.

Several notes were also discovered, lying around his quarters and there was a high level of anti-insomnia medication, which he had not been prescribed, in his bloodstream.

In a statement, Hughes said because of his experiences in the prison system he had become attuned at recognising those inmates who may struggle with adjusting to long periods of incarceration.

He had begun talking with Hill, shortly after his arrival to begin a 27-month sentence for a domestic violence offence, and found out that they had several things in common.

Hughes said Hill had expressed repeated regrets over his behaviour towards his ex-partner and was worried that his predicament would affect him getting access to his children in the future.

“I wanted to help him and thought that if he was on my wing, or we shared a cell, then I could keep an eye on him,” added Hughes. Hill was continuing to receive support and appeared to change his mind about moving to be nearer to Hughes, the inquest heard.

But Hughes said when he saw his friend again, shortly before his death, he appeared to be finding it hard to cope once more.

Hughes added: “I couldn’t believe it when I heard that he had killed himself in his cell.

“I felt so angry about what had happened and frustrated that he had not been moved to my wing and cell. I felt I could have supported him, if he was with me.”

An eleven-day hearing ended with an inquest jury returning a narrative verdict, which read:

“Anthony Ronald Hill died as a consequence of a deliberate self-suspension, using a cloth ligature and a light fitting in his cell, with every intention of the outcome being fatal.”

The deceased’s mother Maureen Hill, and his uncle, Gerrard Hill, had attended part of the hearing.

His lawyers questioned why there were delays in Hill initially getting access to prescribed anti-depressants and why a ‘code blue’ was not issued when their client’s body was first discovered in his cell.

But jurors or Area Coroner Timothy Brennand did not make any further recommendations as a result of the case.

In a statement later, the family said: “We are grateful to our solicitors for ensuring our voices were heard.

“We had many questions that we now feel have been answered. We hope lessons can be learned and prisoners’ wellbeing can be at the forefront of the prison’s objectives so that future deaths can be prevented. We finally have some closure and we will remember our Anthony with much love and affection.”

Solicitor Jenny Fraser, of Liverpool-based Broudie Canter Jackson, said: “It is sad to see yet another death in prison custody.

“It is crucial that lessons are learnt by all to prevent any future deaths from occurring.

“It is vitally important that all prisoners are receiving the medical treatment they require and appropriate monitoring and safeguards are put in place to protect current and future prisoners.”

An inquest was also concluded earlier this year into the death of Wigan-born Stephen Connell, who was found hanging in his cell, in February 2016, after complaining of being assaulted at Hindley.