'Vulnerable' prisoner's suicide contributed to by neglect

Shaun Beasley's family say that the prison failed him Credit: Family photograph

A man who was found hanged in his cell at Parc Prison, near Bridgend, took his own life "in circumstances contributed to by neglect", an inquest jury has ruled today. Both the prison, managed by G4S, and the company responsible for healthcare at the time, Primecare - Forensic Medical Services, contributed to the neglect.

Shaun Beasley, who was 29 and from Surrey, was 'highly vulnerable', his family has said. 'He suffered from serious mental ill health. He had a history of self-harm and had made several serious suicide attempts.' Aberdare Coroner's Court heard he had a history of self-harm, paranoia and depression. He was transferred to HMP Parc specifically so he could enrol in a drugs treatment programme, and placed on a healthcare wing of the prison where he could be checked every half an hour. His body was discovered in his cell on 24 August 2010.

The prison's management says major changes have been made to healthcare services since then. Wayne Ridgely, Shaun Beasley's brother-in-law, says that - had those changes been made earlier - 'he would still be here today.'

Mr Beasley's family have said that those responsible for care at the prison failed him. They point to poor communication between staff, and failures in record-keeping and the documentation of calls. They say, on the night of his death, Mr Beasley phoned to say he could not cope. His sister immediately called the prison to tell them of his state of mind. He was already on half-hour observations, but that was not increased and he was found hanging in his cell shortly after midnight.

We would like to thank the Coroner and the jury for a very thorough investigation. We hope that this verdict will help us to move on from this very terrible time in our lives. The verdict has confirmed what we have always felt; we have always felt that Shaun had been let down and it is very important to us that there has been public recognition of this.

The family is pleased that changes have been made that will hopefully avoid anyone having to go through this tragedy in the future. This very sad case has brought to light problems which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Despite the family alerting the prison to their concerns for Shaun’s safety and wellbeing, the prison failed in their duty of care. In cases where prisons are run by private companies, there need to be strict protocols and procedures in place to ensure that safety is put first and incidents like this are prevented as far as possible.

The company running healthcare at HMP Parc at the time the prisoner's death, Primecare - Forensic Medical Services, says it recognises the care provided 'fell below our high standards.' It sends its 'sincerest condolences' to Mr Beasley's family and friends.

We have carefully reviewed what happened to identify what went wrong and recognise that the care provided to Mr Beasley fell below our high standards. As a result we put in place a number of measures to improve safety including better communication systems between healthcare and custody staff, improved recruitment, staffing levels and training, and a focus on better record-keeping. We are deeply sorry that the care that Mr Beasley received was not up to the required standards. Our services have improved greatly since this tragic incident in 2010.

G4S, the security company which manages Parc Prison on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, says that there's been a 'fundamental review' of the way vulnerable prisoners are cared for since Mr Beasley's death.

At the time of Shaun Beasley's death, healthcare services were provided by an external contractor. Due to our concerns regarding inadequate provision, arrangements were already in place to bring these services in house and this occurred shortly after Shaun Beasley's death. A fundamental review of the care of vulnerable prisoners was implemented. Significant changes have been taken place to improve the care given to vulnerable prisoners and those at risk. The Coroner has confirmed she is satisfied that the changes made since August 2010 were suitable and correct.

Sophie Willet from the Howard League for Penal Reform says there's a concern that cuts to prison budgets could end up in more tragic deaths.