Prison officer failed to check Romford man on morning of death, inquest told

A Prison Officer at walking past the gates of HMP Highpoint Prison in Suffolk

A Prison Officer at walking past the gates of HMP Highpoint Prison in Suffolk - Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant

A Highpoint Prison officer had not checked on an inmate who was later found dead in his cell despite recording that it had taken place, jurors have been told.

Callum Brown, 25, from Romford, was found dead by fellow inmates at HMP Highpoint South, near Bury St Edmunds, on April 8, 2013.

At the opening of his inquest yesterday, held at the Farmers Club building, in Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, the jury was told that Mr Brown had been transferred from HMP Wormwood Scrubs and was serving a short-term prison sentence for breaching a restraining order.

A statement was read out in court on behalf of his mother Helen Carey, describing her son when he was younger as a “happy little boy, eager to please”.

However, she said as he grew older he was expelled from school and had “behavioural problems”, also associating with a “bad crowd”.

“Callum was intelligent and had a kind nature,” she said, “but he enjoyed the drama and buzz of being around these people.”

The father of two had been receiving mental health treatment while in prison and had been prescribed various anti-depressants.

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However, the court heard his regular checks stopped towards the end of 2012.

Statements from fellow prisoners were read out yesterday describing how they tried to cut Mr Brown down after he was found hanging in his cell when the doors were unlocked at about 8.15am on the Monday morning.

Prisoners were locked in their cells before 5pm the previous evening, with an operational support grade prison officer patrolling overnight, checking on the welfare of inmates.

Detective Sergeant Ann Naylor of Suffolk police said the officer that night Paul Honour had not carried out a 6.45am check.

The court heard when Mr Brown was found around 8.30am he was likely to have been dead a minimum of two hours.

“It’s clear that Mr Honour didn’t undertake his 6.45am check of prisoners, although he had signed the document stating he had and this was confirmed by viewing the prison CCTV,” Det Sgt Naylor said in court.

She said the officer was interviewed by police, however the Crown Prosecution Service took the decision not to prosecute him.

Det Sgt Naylor told the court Mr Honour said in interview he had “no excuse” for not carrying out the check and had received all the relevant training from the prison.

The inquest was told Mr Brown had previously told mental health staff at Highpoint in 2012 he was feeling suicidal and had tried to kill himself, leading mental health staff to enact its care planning system called ACCT (Assessment, Care in Custody, and Teamwork).

This had helped for a while, however the inquest heard Mr Brown then went several months from the end of 2012 onwards without seeing a mental health professional, although he was still taking prescribed antidepressants until his death.

The 11 jurors were told at the outset that following Mr Brown’s death on the morning of April 8, 2013, his mother Miss Carey was not told of the news until the following day, April 9, after the prison said it had difficulty finding details of Mr Brown’s next of kin.

The inquest continues today and is expected to last for five weeks.