Mother vows to get answers about how her son died in Milton Keynes prison

A vulnerable young Woodhill prisoner who was found dead in his cell was never given a mental health assessment at the jail due to staff shortages, an inquest heard.

Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 12:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:18 pm
HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes

Ryan Harvey, 23, had learning difficulties and a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

He was found hanging in his cell in May 2015 - just days after he arrived at the prison.

His death was the eighth in a series of eighteen self-inflicted deaths at HMP Woodhill over a three year period (2013-2016).

HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes

Four of those who died before Ryan had also been newly arrived prisoners on the induction wing. Significant public scrutiny arose from these deaths and changes were made to the regime at the prison

However the most recent inspection of HMP Woodhill found the prison is ‘still not safe enough’, and there have been deaths over the past year.

This week Coroner Tom Osborne heard Ryan had made a previous attempt at suicide but staff had caught him with a ligature around his neck. But on that occasion they did not taker the ligature away.

As a result, staff were observing Ryan through the window every 30 minutes - but they did not go in to the cell because he threatened to throw a television at them.

Ryan Harvey

The inquest heard there were healthcare staff shortages at the jail, with a team of four people supporting 800 prisoners.

The head of healthcare has asked for a mental health assessment to be carried out on Ryan but it was never completed.

Ryan’s family is claiming there was a “wholesale system failure” at Woodhill at the time of his death.

Last year prison officer Joseph Travers was cleared of gross negligence manslaughter following Ryan’s death. The jail was slammed in court for a series of “appalling” systemic failures.

The inquest continues.

Meanwhile Ryan mother Alisa Harvey said: “We’ve waited a long time to get answers to our questions about how Ryan was treated. Ryan didn’t fit into this world and didn’t think things through. I only wish he’d got the help he so desperately needed.

It’s so upsetting to hear about another death in the prison in the last few days. I sincerely hope everyone attending the inquest does so with the aim of finding out what went wrong so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again and there are no further deaths in Woodhill this year or any other year.”

Selen Cavcav, the INQUEST charity caseworker who has supported many families bereaved by deaths at Woodhill said: “This inquest is an important opportunity to examine the systemic and repeated failures by HMP Woodhill, in relation to Ryan’s death. We hope the hearing will reinvigorate public scrutiny on the actions of this prison, which over three years on is still not safe.”