Policy pledge after prison suicide

PRISON bosses have promised major policy reforms after a female inmate was found hanging in her cell.Tracey Newton, 29, committed suicide at Highpoint Prison in Stradishall, near Haverhill, after a battle with drink and drugs which started when she was a teenager.

PRISON bosses have promised major policy reforms after a female inmate was found hanging in her cell.

Tracey Newton, 29, committed suicide at Highpoint Prison in Stradishall, near Haverhill, after a battle with drink and drugs which started when she was a teenager.

Miss Newton was the first suicide victim in the five-year history of the women's section of the prison.

An inquest yesterday at Bury St Edmunds heard how she assaulted another inmate and an investigation was carried out just before her death on September 17 last year.


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During the adjudication process at the prison, governors were not told she was on a low self-harm risk list, a system designed to monitor vulnerable prisoners.

Just under an hour after been given a sentence of five days in semi-confinement, Miss Newton was found hanging in her cell in the segregation unit after tying a sheet to the window bars.

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Deputy governor Norma King, who spoke to Miss Newton during her adjudication, said issues were now being put into place including a greater awareness of prisoners who may harm themselves. But she said this new initiative would not have made any difference in Miss Newton's case.

Ms King added transparent thermoplastic acrylic resin had now been fitted to stop prisoners touching the bars, and the female segregated unit will be refurbished.

Independent inspector David Hoskins cleared the prison of any blame for the incident and called for better communication over prisoners likely to self-harm.

Days after Miss Newton was sent to Highpoint after being convicted of assault, attempted deception and criminal damage she was put on a high-risk list and monitored hourly. A few days later she was taken off the risk list before being put on the more low scale register on the days before her death.

The report, which determined whether Miss Newton was at risk of causing self-harm, said she was very emotional and would not be able to cope with being put in a segregated unit.

Dr Barry Cottrell, a consultant pathologist at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, said the medical cause of death was unnatural due to hanging.

The inquest heard how Miss Newton had a troubled childhood, which culminated in a drug overdose at the age of 16. Repeated drug rehabilitation programmes, including one just weeks before her death, failed to help her stop her taking heroine and cocaine.

Greater Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean said he would write to the Prison Service to ask for greater help for prisoners likely to harm themselves.

The inquest jury returned a majority verdict of suicide.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Newton said he felt his daughter's action was a cry for help.

He added: "I wasn't too happy about the verdict as I thought it was accidental death. But I felt the prison acted properly and done all they could."

His partner, Jean Grey, said: "Tracey was a nice lass. She had problems with drugs but she was still happy-go-lucky and easy to get on with."

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