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Pentonville cell death prompts call for better enforcement of reccomendations

‘It’s depressing to see the same issues coming up again and again’

04 October, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Angela Augustin at the inquest flanked by Adam Wagner and solicitor Chanel Dolcy

A LEADING human rights barrister who represented a mother whose son died at Pentonville has warned there would be similar deaths unless the prison is forced to make changes to how it cares for inmates.

Adam Wagner from Doughty Street Chambers represented the mother of Tyrone Givans, 34, who was found hanged in his cell in February 2017.

A jury inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court found that the needs of the profoundly deaf Mr Givans “were not being met” at the jail in Caledonian Road before he died. The inquest had heard how Mr Givans was left “vulnerable” after he was not able to access his hearing aids for two weeks.

Chief coroner Mary Hassell responded by writing a “Prevention of Future Deaths” report to the Director General of Prisons detailing her concerns around the case.

Mr Wagner said, however, that there was “no legal enforcement mechanism and no follow-up” once these reports had been sent and it was “depressing” to see the same issues come up in an inquest “over and over again” across the country.

Tyrone Givans

He added: “They [the prison service] say they have put in place all these measures but unless the same issues come up with the same coroner it is very unlikely that any coroner joins the dots.”

He said an inquest consists of a “detailed examination” of what happens in the lead-up to a death, but added: “Yes, there is a stain on the record of a prison. But that’s the end of it.”

Mr Wagner, who represented Mr Givans’s mother Angela Augustin, who works in Highbury, recommended a “central body which is piecing and putting all the pieces of the puzzle together” to find trends when it comes to deaths in prisons and hospitals.

He called on the Chief Coroner’s office, which offers guidance to all of the country’s coroners, to play more of an ombudsman role. “There’s a feeling that the same mistakes are happening over and over again helps nobody,” said Mr Wagner. “Nobody wants this, the prison service don’t want this.”

Frances Crook from the Howard League for Penal Reform also warned that there “seems to be no ­systematic capture of the recommendations from inquests and no monitoring of how, or if, they are implemented”.

A spokesman for the Chief Coroner said: “It is a matter for Parliament whether or not these statutory functions should be enlarged.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said that whenever a coroner makes a report “we respond to outline the actions the prison governor will take to address any issues they have identified and demonstrate how they will be rectified”.

Inquest mystery at jail

Pentonville Prison. Photo: Grammaticus Bramlington

SEVEN workers at Pentonville Prison have been suspended after two inmates were injured while a prisoner died during a separate incident last month.

Mystery surrounds the death of Ibrahim Noor, who died in the prison on September 7. Workers at St Pancras Coroner’s Court confirmed they have opened an inquest into the man’s death but did not reveal his age, the circumstances of his death or usual address.

The Met Police confirmed that they had been called at just after 10.30am to the prison but found a man in his 30s deceased.

A Met spokesman said: “At this stage the death is being treated as unexplained and a file referred to the coroner.”

The Ministry of Justice said there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman into the death. They also confirmed that they have suspended seven members of staff “pending police and disciplinary investigations” in an incident separate to the death. A spokeswoman added: “It would be inappropriate to comment further while these are ongoing.”

The suspensions are for two alleged assaults on two prisoners who were treated by the prison’s healthcare staff.

A report published by the Chief Inspector of Prisons in August warned that two-thirds of inmates said they felt “unsafe” at the Victorian jail.

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