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Communication problems contributed to Stafford Prison inmate's death

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: February 28, 2014

Stafford Prison

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“BREAKDOWN in communication” between three jails played a part in the death of an inmate at Stafford Prison, an inquest has found.

Kieron Dowdall was just 24 when he was found hanged at the town’s prison in January 2012, an inquest at Stafford Crown Court heard this week.

Originally from Lancashire, he had been given an indeterminate prison sentence in November 2006, when he was 19, and ordered to serve at least three and a half years’ custody.

In January 2012 he was serving his sentence at North Sea Camp, an open prison in Lincolnshire. But after he absconded with the intention of taking his own life, shortly before an authorised visit to his family, he was moved to a closed prison in Lincoln.

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He harmed himself at HMP Lincoln and an Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) plan was opened – a procedure that takes place when a prisoner has been identified as at risk of harming themselves.

The inquest heard that Mr Dowdall believed he would be returned to North Sea Camp. But instead he was transferred to Stafford Prison.

Fellow prisoner Stephen Denson, who shared a cell with Mr Dowdall in the days before his death, told the inquest he heard Mr Dowdall threaten to kill himself if he was not told why he had been transferred to Stafford.

His ACCT plan was closed before he went to Stafford, but a planned follow up interview did not take place. The documents had not traveled with him – instead it was sent by recorded delivery and a copy was faxed to Stafford Prison but “left in an office”, the inquest heard.

A week after his arrival at Stafford Mr Dowdall was found hanged in his cell.

Yesterday a jury returned a verdict that Mr Dowdall had hanged himself, and had intended to kill himself.

They added: “The jury considers breakdown in communication between North Sea Camp, HMP Lincoln and HMP Stafford contributed to his death. The jury also considers the way in which information was, or was not, processed or acted upon by prison departments, not least the lack of communication with Kieron, also contributed to his death.”

A statement from Mr Dowdall’s family, released after the inquest, said: “We are grateful for the jury’s findings and the way they approached the case.

“Kieron was so well loved by so many people. If this never happens to another prisoner Kieron’s death won’t be in vain.”

Caseworker Victoria McNally from the charity Inquest, which supports families of people who have died in custody, said: “It is deeply concerning that Kieron’s death was the result of failures in the most basic procedures and communication. It is imperative that learning from this death is implemented both at a local and national level.”

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