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Prisoner was not checked for over two hours on night he died

The Inspector of Prisons has said the people who failed in their duties in the man’s care should be held to account.

THE INSPECTOR OF Prisons has called on the Irish Prison Service (IPS) to hold to account those who failed in their duties in the care of a prisoner who died in his cell two years ago.

The 30-year-old Dublin prisoner and father of two was found in his cell in an unresponsive state with a ligature around his neck at the top security Portlaoise Prison shortly after 9pm on 28 July 2015.

In a 22-page report on the circumstances around the man’s death, the Inspector of Prisons Helen Casey found that the man’s cell was not checked for more than two hours between 6.43pm and 9.02pm on the night he died.

An assistant governor at Portlaoise confirmed to Casey that the prisoner was on special observation at the time of his death.

In her report, Casey states: “From my examination of CCTV footage from 8am to 9pm on July 28 2015 there are several periods throughout the day when the deceased, who was locked in cell 6 was not checked in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedure relating to these cells.”

The prisoner had been removed from a close supervision cell on the previous day, 27 July, and Casey found that “records show that the deceased was checked in the cell every 15 minutes from 9pm on July 26 to 2.15pm on July 27 2015 when this was not the case”.

While the cell was checked on 29 occasions during that period there were several periods of up to or in excess of one hour between checks contrary to the Standard Operating Procedures.

In her chief recommendation, Casey states: “Irish Prison Service (IPS) Management should ensure that they implement their own written policies and where these policies are breached, as in this instance, that appropriate disciplinary investigation be conducted and those who failed to carry out their duties be held to account.”

Casey was also critical of record keeping by staff in respect of the prisoner. She said: “Irish Prison Service Management should address the poor record keeping”, stating that “incomplete and inaccurate record keeping regularly feature as a finding in our reports as does a recommendation to have this addressed”.

Just two days prior to his death, on 26 July 2015, the prisoner was placed on “close supervision for his own safety” after making veiled threats to a nurse regarding self harm such as he “might not be here in the morning to see the doctor”.

On 27 July, a doctor assessed the prisoner and cleared him to come out of his close supervision cell.

‘He felt he was dying’ 

The prisoner remained on special observation, and at 11.06pm the night before he died called for a medic as “he felt that he was dying when he lay down on the bed”.

According to the records he was asked “if he wanted to die or to harm himself in any way. .. he said, ‘Oh God, no’”.

The prisoner was seen by nursing staff on the morning of 28 July and stated that he was “okay but felt stressed …. head is wrecked”. The medical notes state that the man denied any thoughts of suicide.

The man was a heroin addict and continued on his methadone programme up until his death. The man was jailed in September 2014 and due for release in March 2016.

The prison officer on night guard in charge of the unit on the night the prisoner died commenced work at 8pm and stated that he was busy dealing with another prisoner who was in the close supervision cell (CSC).

The prison officer said the prisoner in the CSC was very agitated and was in a distressed state, and that he had to attend to this prisoner on a number of occasions as the prisoner was shouting and pressing the call bell.

The prisoner who died assaulted a prison officer in June 2015 at Wheatfield prison, and lost personal visits and phone and money privileges for 42 days.

However, Casey queried why the prisoner was transferred out of Wheatfield to Portlaoise as part of the punishment. The Chief Officer at Wheatfield stated that the prisoner was transferred to maintain good order and security at Wheatfield.

The day before the prisoner’s death, the Chief Officer at Portlaoise made contact with his Wheatfield counterparts about transferring the man back to Wheatfield. The man told his former partner in a phone conversation that “he wanted out of Portlaoise prison”.

Referring to the transfer to Portlaoise in her recommendations, Casey said: “Local Management in requesting approval for a prisoner transfer should ensure these transfers are not used as a means of further punishment.”

Casey found that the landing lights outside the man’s cell were switched off on the night that he died. She said that the practice of turning off all landing lights during periods of lock-back should be discontinued forthwith and this recommendation should be implemented across all prisons.

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: Rent controls are now in place in two more areas in Ireland

Read: Sinn Féin expels three Wicklow councillors from party

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