An inquest into the suicide of a prisoner at HMP Durham following a spate of cases of prisoners taking their own lives has found inadequate training and poor record-keeping contributed to the death. Garry Beadle hung himself and died four days later in hospital on February 11, 2019 – he had only been in prison for six days and was in custody on remand.
HMP Durham has become notorious for its lack of adequate safeguards for detainees (see here). Peter Clarke, the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, had highlighted the prison’s lack of safety in the prison an ‘overriding concern’ in 2018. Since Garry Beadle’s suicide in February last year, there had been a further seven self-inflicted deaths in the prison.
There had been many signs that Beadle was at high risk – he had previously attempted to commit suicide the preceding week by hanging himself and attempting to overdose; he told a magistrate and his solicitor that he would not last in two days in prison; and informed a senior prison officer that he felt so down he would attempt suicide. In addition to this, he arrived at HMP Durham with a suicide and self-harm warning form (commonly referred to as a SASH form).
The SASH form is to help the prison staff ensure that they keep an eye out for potential risks of suicide or self-harm. Despite this, the senior prison officer did not record Garry’s admission that he felt so down he would attempt suicide. The officer admitted in the inquest that this was a missed opportunity for vital information sharing.
Moreover, the nurse conducted Garry’s initial health screening recorded that Garry had not overdosed in the last twelve months despite it being mentioned on his SASH form. It was discovered in the inquest that this nurse had no training on SASH forms and the nurse did not receive training on prison suicide and self-harm management (known as ACCT) for five or six years.
After two days of being in prison, Garry had phoned a close friend, and after asking his friend to look after his children, Garry said: ‘I have everything now to do what I am going to do.’ Garry’s friend contacted Northumbria Police who informed the prison. The inquest discovered that this information was not passed to anyone involved in the ACCT reviews or the mental health staff.
Karen Beadle, Garry’s mother said that after the evidence from the inquest had come to light, it was ‘crystal clear that Garry was overwhelmed, confused, emotional and that more attention should have been paid to the red flags that Garry was waving for help and support.’ Karem continued ‘We must do more to protect people in these positions, as I do not want any other families to go through what I have and am.’
Tara Mulcair, Solicitor at Birnberg Peirce that represented the family said it was ‘vital that HMP Durham and the Ministry of Justice ensure that lessons are learned so that the failings in Garry’s case are not repeated in the future’.