Inquiry into use of handcuffs on paralysed inmate

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The Independent Online
AN INVESTIGATION has been launched after a wheelchair- bound prisoner who could only move his head and one arm was allegedly handcuffed as he was being taken to hospital following a suspected heart attack.

Nathan Graham, a 32-year-old tetraplegic who was being held on remand at Nottingham jail on charges of drugs trafficking, later died.

The two paramedics who went to the prison to collect Mr Graham have written reports expressing their "concern" about his treatment. They claim that he was handcuffed when they arrived in the ambulance.

The Prison Service admitted yesterday that the governor ofNottingham jail had ordered Mr Graham to be handcuffed in the ambulance and hospital, but when he appeared to suffer a heart attack, the prison staff with him decided it was unsuitable. The Prison Service has ordered an investigation into the incident, which occurred on 9 November.

Penal reformers yesterday strongly criticised the alleged use of handcuffs on a severely disabled inmate.

Mr Graham, from Riddings, Derbyshire, broke his neck at the age of 18 in a diving accident.

Mr Graham was remanded in custody on 3 November after being charged along with five others with conspiracy to supply drugs and supplying cannabis. This followed an operation by the National Crime Squad (NCS) in which drugs with a street value of pounds 1.6m were seized. Mr Graham was accused of being the mastermind of the gang.

The NCS asked for Mr Graham to be kept in prison while awaiting his trial because itfeared his colleagues would help him to skip bail.

On arrival at jail, Mr Graham, who was suffering from a chest infection, was placed in the medical wing. He fell seriously ill on 9 November and an ambulance was called.

Keith Beaumont, the governor, authorised his staff to handcuff Mr Graham to a prison officer with a device known as a "closeting chain". The shackle has two handcuffs with an extra long chain separating them.

The ambulance crew, a male and female paramedic, reported that when they arrived Mr Graham was handcuffed. He appeared to suffer a heart attack and was taken to a hospital about two miles away andwas declared dead within a few hours.

Phil Morris, spokesman of the East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: "Following the incident the staff who attended the patient submitted a report of their concerns which has been passed to Nottingham prison officials. They expressed concerns that the patient was restrained. In the opinion of the crew this was unnecessary."

He added: "[Mr Graham] was definitely handcuffed. He was cuffed as a restraining measure to prevent escape."

A Prison Service spokesman said the governor "made cuffs available for use with the prisoner to go to hospital. When officers became aware that [Mr Graham] was having a cardiac arrest they made sure that the cuffs were not put on".

He insisted: "He was not cuffed at any stage.

"Our security manual states that only in exceptional circumstances would you handcuff a disabled person."

Mr Graham's widow, Christina, 30, said yesterday: "I'm furious with the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the magistrates and the Prison Service. He did not get the care he needed and would not have died if he was at home on bail with me."

Professor David Wilson, a former prison governor and now at the Law Faculty of the University of Central London in Birmingham, added: "Under the Tories, the scandal was handcuffing women in labour. I had hoped there was going to be a different approach under New Labour, but it would seem we have replaced pregnant women with tetraplegics."

The issue of shackling prisoners caused a political row in 1996 when a series of inmates was chained during and after giving birth. New guidelines restricting the use of handcuffs were later issued.