Fresh criticism for Milton Keynes prison after another prisoner suicide

An inquest ino the death of another prisoner who killed himself at Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes has once again identified a series of failures by the jail.

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 5:05 pm

Chris Carpenter, 34, was found unresponsive in his cell in August last year after overdosing on prescription drugs that has not been prescribed for him.

He was the last of four men to die in the jail during 2018.

The inquest heard Chris had a documented history of mental ill health and debts stemming from problems related to drug misuse.

HMP woodhill

He had been transferred to Woodhill a month earlier and concerns were raised with the safer custody team that Chris was vulnerable due to the recent death of his father and may self-harm or take his own life if his mental health deteriorated.

But there was no evidence at all that any meaningful safeguards were put in place, the inquest jury heard.

Woodhill's Governor Spellman told the inquest the jail was experiencing unprecedented use of ‘Spice’ and also high levels of violence at the time. Spice is a novel psychoactive substance (NPS).

Chris made numerous attempts to alert prison staff to the threats he was facing, including handing them two written notes with his concerns. On August 15 2018 he reported that he had been threatened with a bladed weapon, and even went so far as to name the prisoner who threatened him. A day later he handed prison staff a note stating that he feared for his life life and requested to move to the vulnerable prisoner’s unit.

Inside Woodhill prison

But no action was taken despite Chris’s distress, the inquest heard.

The jury found failures in co-coordinating concerns regarding Chris’s welfare, documenting and sharing information vital to safeguarding him, carrying out necessary searches after reports of threats involving bladed weapons, drug use and drug selling, and finally reassuring Chris that appropriate actions to keep him safe were being taken.

Linda Carpenter, Chris’s mother, said: “It’s utterly disgraceful to know my son was threatened with a blade and no searches or procedure was followed to ensure a basic level of care was given to him.”

Carole Carpenter, Chris’s sister, said: “How many times did my brother have to ask for help before anyone listened, it’s heart-breaking to know that in his final days he was suffering so much and in distress and no one listened. As a family we believe Chris was attempting to take his own life through all the suffering and distress he was in.”

Jo Eggleton of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors, who acted for Chris through the charity Inquest, said: “Chris’s story is tragically all too familiar and he won’t have been the only one under threat at this time. Another who was, Darren Williams, took his own life on 4 January 2019. The jury at his inquest found very similar failings. Evidence at Chris’s inquest suggested that everyone was well aware of the problems at the time yet nothing was done to resolve them.”