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Pentonville inmate who took his own life was on hourly checks system

Inquest finds prison was not negligent

01 November, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Robert McGinn died at Pentonville prison

A MAN who downloaded thousands of images of child abuse took his own life less than a month after being sent to prison, an inquest heard this week.

A jury at St Pancras Coroner’s Court found that Robert Ginn’s death was a case of “suicide by hanging” and a “contributing factor” was his “chronic depression”.

Mr Ginn had been sentenced to 12 months in Pentonville at Snaresbrook Crown Court on November 5 last year after 17,000 images of abuse were found on his computer along with manuals instructing people how to groom children as young as eight.

Lawyers representing Mr Ginn’s family raised concerns about the levels of staffing at Victorian prison, with officers admitting that they repeatedly failed to hit targets set for monitoring inmates at risk of taking their own life.

The 56-year-old was diagnosed with recurrent depressive disorder, which he believed dated back to the age of 13, and there was a “significant history of abuse in his childhood,” the inquest heard.

When he was arrested, Mr Ginn told a team of psychiatrists that he had downloaded the pornographic material in a bid to “boost his sex drive” after chronic illnesses and depression.

The father-of-two had attempted to take his own life twice before he was imprisoned.

He told family and friends that he was “ashamed” of what he had done and that he could not tell other prisoners what his offence was otherwise they would “attack” him.

Katie Williams, a senior mental health nurse at Care UK working in Pentonville, interviewed Mr Ginn at the Caledonian Road prison.

She said: “He said he might stand on the landing and say he was a sex offender so that other prisoners would shank him.”

He was placed on an hourly monitoring schedule where officers had to check up on him at random times within 60-minute intervals.

Representing the family, barrister Sarah Hemmingway said: “Between November 6 and 11 there were 36 incidents where staff did not review Robert within the hour.”

She added: “There were 33 incidents where Robert was not seen within two hours and one time he was not seen for five hours.”

Pentonville prison officer Andrew Williams said: “It is clearly bad that one was five hours but it is about the level of staff we have got.”

He added: “If they had given instructions for 15-minute observations we could not cope with that on the wing.”

A statement from Mr Ginn’s sister Linda was read out to the jury.

She said: “He was ­caring, sensitive and extreme­ly fun. He also protected me from his illnesses and he helped me with my problems.”

She added that she had phoned the prison after Mr Ginn was incarcerated to warn them that he would try to take his own life.

It was announced last week that Pentonville, which had been earmarked for demolition by previous justice secretary Michael Gove, will be kept.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “It is a tragedy whenever anyone takes their own life in prison and our thoughts remain with Robert’s family and friends.

“The coroner found the prison was not negligent in its care but, nonetheless, there have been significant improvements since Robert’s death to how vulnerable prisoners are supported.”

The prison has put in place better training for staff to help them identify, monitor and support vulnerable offenders and each prisoner now has a dedicated officer they can talk to through the keyworker scheme.”

• For emotional support call the Samaritans’ free helpline on 116 123 or alternatively email jo@samaritans.org

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