Doncaster prison slammed for refusing to inform inmate's family of his death

HMP Doncaster
HMP Doncaster
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A privately-run Doncaster prison has been criticised for refusing to send a liasion officer to inform the family of an inmate, who committed suicide at another prison, of his death.

Carl Jacques was found hanged at his cell in HMP Liverpool on May 10 last year.

Under national guidelines, the closest prison complex to the family of an inmate, is obliged to inform the family of their death if 'reasonably asked' to do so.

In the case of Jacques, the closest complex to his family who live in Doncaster was Serco-run HMP Doncaster; but a damning report from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman released this month revealed how the duty manager at HMP Doncaster refused the request to send a family liason officer to inform the 34-year-old's mother of his death.

According to the report written by Prison Ombudsman, Nigel Newcomen CBE, this was refused by the duty manager because he did not believe this was something that would 'normally be done by a privately operated prison'.

Mr Newcomen said: "We are concerned that HMP Doncaster refused to provide a member of staff to inform Mr Jacques’ mother of his death.

"The duty manager at HMP Doncaster refused Liverpool’s request to ask a family liaison officer to inform Mr Jacques’ mother of his death. He told us that, as a privately operated prison, Doncaster would not normally do this.

"He said that their family liaison officer would not know any details of the death and would not therefore be able to answer any questions put to them. The PSI makes no distinction between public and privately operated prisons and the instruction applies to both sectors.

"We do not consider that there is any reason why a privately operated prison should not assist a public prison to break the news of a death when this is necessary."

A Serco spokesperson said: “We fully accept the finding of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman in relation to HMP Doncaster and have taken internal action to ensure that we comply with similar requests in the future.”

Jacques received an indeterminate sentence for robbery in 2008, and was recalled to HMP Liverpool in November 2014 after being found smoking cannabis while living in a residence for former prisoners undergoing drug and alcohol rehabilitation and detoxification programmes.

Mr Newcomen's report explains how during assessments at the prison Jacques was not deemed to be a suicide risk, despite admitting to being 'frustrated' and telling his offender supervisor that he was 'struggling to cope with his sentence, recall to prison and issues around his drug use'.

This led to him being referred to the prison's mental health outreach team, who he told 'he had experienced some suicidal thoughts a few months earlier, but these had gone'.

Jacques admitted to smoking both cannabis and spice, which is a a synthetic cannabis or new psychoactive substance that can be considerably stronger than cannabis.

However, Mr Newcomen concluded that he was satisfied that it would have been 'difficult for staff at Liverpool to have foreseen and prevented his death'.

He said: "Mr Jacques received some good support from specialist staff, but this was not backed up by a personal officer or other officers on his wing. The officer who unlocked Mr Jacques’ cell on the morning of his death should have checked his welfare at the time."