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Official report expresses concerns over welfare procedures at Norwich prison following cell death of Suffolk prisoner

PUBLISHED: 15:01 27 January 2015 | UPDATED: 15:01 27 January 2015

Norwich prison

Norwich prison

Archant © 2009

Concerns have been raised over inmates’ welfare at Norwich prison after the death of a Suffolk man found hanging his cell the day before he should have been released.

Darren Wright, of Ipswich Road, Otley, was found in his cell on Sunday, November 3, 2013.

A jury at his two day inquest in Norwich concluded a possible contributing factor to the 35-year-old’s death was an “inconsistency with the sharing of, or access to, information across different departments within the prison system”.

A report by HM Prison and Probation Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen CBE released after this week’s inquest highlighted concerns that more could have been done by Norwich Prison to help Mr Wright.

Although Mr Wright was not identified in the anonymised report Mr Newcomen said: “This was his first time in prison and a nurse described him as anxious when he arrived.

“There were indications he had previous contact with mental health services which do not appear to have been pursued.

“All of these are known risk factors for suicide and self-harm, but no-one identified the man as being at risk and it is not clear that all of the risk factors were considered.

“During his time at the prison, the man was described as quiet and reserved and he appears to have been withdrawn.

“At different times two members of staff raised concerns about him, but the officers who subsequently spoke to the man about these concerns concluded that he was finding it difficult to adapt to life in prison and did not consider that he was at risk of suicide or self-harm.

“Two referrals to the chaplaincy and mental health teams do not appear to have been recorded or acted upon.

“The man was eligible for release on home detention curfew on November 4 but little had been done to progress his application. A note asking about this application was found in his cell after his death.

“I am concerned that prison staff did not identify that the man might be in need of further support when he first arrived at the prison, when factors known to increase the risk of suicide and self-harm do not appear to have been taken into account.

“This is a matter I have raised with Norwich before. I am also concerned that two further opportunities to give the man the support he required were missed and, meanwhile, that the man’s application for home detention curfew had not been processed appropriately.”

Mr Wright’s was the third of four deaths in five years involving Suffolk prisoners who appear to have taken their own lives while at HMP Norwich.

He had been sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment by Ipswich Crown Court on September 4, 2013, after admitting two counts of actual bodily harm.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Every death in custody is a terrible tragedy and reducing the number of self-inflicted deaths in prisons is a top priority. We will look closely at the findings of the inquest and any report the coroner may make to see what lessons can be learned, in addition to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s investigation.”

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