Use of restraint criticised after Durham Prison inmate dies in cell

Michael Smith, from Middlesbrough, was found dead in his cell at Durham Prison in July 2020 Credit: ITV

A catalogue of failures was found to have contributed to the death of a vulnerable inmate at one of the North East's prisons.

Michael Smith, from Middlesbrough, was a prisoner at HMP Durham when he was found dead in his cell in July 2020.

The family of the 32-year-old had raised concerns about his mental health. However these were not passed on, an inquest heard.

  • Bodycam footage of Smith being restrained as he was led to the segregation unit was shown to jurors during the inquest at Crook Civic Centre.

An inquest into his death heard there had been a number of failings in how he was treated, including the manner in which he was restrained.

A lack of mental health assessment also contributed.

Crispin Oliver, coroner for County Durham and Darlington, is writing to the director general of the prison service to raise concerns about staffing shortages and the consequences that can have on safety.

The inquest found Smith had died by misadventure.

An inquest heard Michael Smith had been a talented footballer, but became addicted to drugs after his career ended due to injury. Credit: Family

During the inquest, the jury was told he had been a talented young footballer, signing with Leeds United as a teenager.

However his career ended due to injury and he became addicted to drugs.

He served more than two years for robbery and was released in 2020. However, in July he was back behind bars after breaching the terms of his licence.

Abbie Smith, reading a statement on behalf of his family, said: "It's been heartbreaking for us after seeing Michael die in such awful circumstances.

"We are pleased the coroner has written to the prison about the failings and we hope no other family has to go through what our family has had to endure."

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