Suicide of ‘much loved son’ in HMP Norwich result of failings in prison care, inquest finds

'It has been almost impossible to understand the total disregard by the prison and healthcare staff,' says Joe Bartlett's mother

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 15 March 2018 22:42
 Joe Bartlett, 36 from Essex, died on 5 April last year after he was found hanged in his cell
Joe Bartlett, 36 from Essex, died on 5 April last year after he was found hanged in his cell

An inquest into the death of a prisoner who took his own life, has found that failings at the facility where he was being held contributed to his death.

Joe Bartlett from Essex, described as a "much-loved son" by his family, died on 5 April last year after he was found hanged in his cell at HMP Norwich.

A jury concluded that prison staff failed to adequately follow procedures to reduce the risks of self-harm and suicide, and that there was insufficient information gathering.

They also noted a failure to recognise the seriousness of the bullying to which the 36-year-old was subjected and to respond accordingly.

His death came less than a year after the prisons watchdog found that the number of assaults taking place in HMP Norwich was increasing and criticised the jail’s investigations of these incidents.

Mr Bartlett’s mother, Michelle Ford, who attended the inquest, said after the verdict that he was "a much loved son, brother and father."

She said: "We have had to hear very harrowing evidence relating to Joe's final days. It has been almost impossible to understand the total disregard by the prison and healthcare staff in managing Joe and the high and very real risks posed to Joe.

“We sincerely hope that lessons have been learnt by the prison to prevent further tragic deaths. We believe abundant opportunities were missed and we hope no other family will have to endure the same tragedy.”

The findings come six weeks after a separate inquest found that prison staff failings contributed to the death of Emily Hartley, a 21-year-old woman who took her own life in jail.

It took prison staff two-and-a-half hours to notice that she had gone missing and to find her body, despite the fact that she should have been checked every 30 minutes because she was considered at-risk, the jury heard.

There have been 14 self-inflicted deaths in prisons so far this year, according to figures gathered by charity Inquest. These included the death of Anthony Paine, 35, in HMP Liverpool last month and Darren Capewell, 37, who died in HMP Nottingham.

The lawyer representing Mr Bartlett's family, Claire Brigham of London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “Joe's death followed a finding by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in its September 2016 inspection of HMP Norwich that the number of assaults was increasing.

“The Inspectorate criticised the prison's investigations of these incidents. It is imperative that the proper procedures are now put in place to prevent further deaths.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Joe Bartlett at this difficult time. Every death in custody is a tragedy, and we have significantly increased support for vulnerable offenders, especially during the first 24 hours in custody.

“Over 14,300 staff have already received new suicide and self-harm reduction training, and HMP Norwich are reviewing their violence reduction strategy to enable them to better manage perpetrators and support the victims of bullying’.

“We have noted the inquest findings and the recommendations from the PPO, and will make sure we learn all possible lessons from this case.”

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