Inquest hears Stradishall prisoner’s death has led to changes

David Smith
David Smith

The death of a prisoner has led to a number of changes being made at HMP Highpoint, an inquest has heard.

David Shane Smith was found hanging in his cell at the Stradishall prison on the night of May 23, 2014, and was confirmed dead at West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, the following morning.

An inquest into his death opened last Monday and continued this week.

Giving evidence at the hearing in Bury on Wednesday, Kate Heard, a governor at Highpoint, told the jury about measures the prison had taken since David’s death ‘to hopefully prevent this sort of thing happening in the future’.

On May 23, 2014, David was transferred from HMP Chelmsford to Highpoint where he asked to speak to a ‘listener’ – prisoners trained by the Samaritans to support other prisoners in distress – but none were available.

He also asked to call the charity’s helpline, a request which was delayed by two hours because a phone on his induction unit was missing.

Ms Heard said Highpoint had increased its ‘listeners’ from two to three people and everyone involved had agreed they could be approached if a request was made when they were not on the rota.

She said at the time of David’s death, responsibility for the management of looking after the prison’s Samaritans’ phones rested with unit staff but now belonged to its safer custody team which checked on them weekly.

She added that ‘a lot of work’ had been done to ensure all prison staff, not just those who have contact with prisoners, were trained to know how to highlight welfare concerns.

The inquest heard last week that Highpoint’s emergency code system was not used by the staff member who attended David’s cell and that prison staff had not contacted David’s family after he was found injured.

Ms Heard told the jury she had drafted a document, now superseded by regional protocol, on responses for emergency codes and that a new way of monitoring which prisoners had failed to give details of next of kin was helping to improve prison records.

The inquest continues.