Relatives of prisoner who took his own life to receive damages from Government
Relatives of a man who committed suicide in Woodhill prison will receive damages from the Government over his death.
Ian Brown, 44, was found dead in his cell at the category A prison in Milton Keynes in July 2015.
Mr Brown, who had mental health issues, was one of 20 men to have taken their lives at the jail in seven years, according to a report by the prisons watchdog.
His mother and sister, Pearl Scarfe and Julie Barber, sued the prison governor and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), seeking damages under article two of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life.
A settlement of £17,500, to be shared equally between the two women, was approved by Judge Graham Platts at the High Court in London on Thursday.
Alex Gask, representing Mrs Scarfe, 82, told the court that Mr Brown had threatened to take his own life just over a month before he died, after his television was removed from his cell.
The barrister said that, had the case gone to trial, one of the issues would have been whether this “gave rise to a real and immediate risk” and whether appropriate steps were taken.
He told the court that some of the money would be saved for Mrs Scarfe’s funeral expenses, and she hoped to be laid to rest alongside her son.
Judge Platts also approved a “substantial” payout by the MoJ to relatives of Krzysztof Woskowiak, 41, who took his own life at HMP Bullingdon in May 2015.
Mrs Scarfe and Mrs Barber brought an unsuccessful legal action at the High Court in April last year, asking the court to order Woodhill’s governor and the MoJ to comply with the requirements of the Prison Service Instructions.
Their lawyers at that time told the court that the rate of self-inflicted deaths was “far higher” than at any other prison.
But their case was rejected by two senior judges, who said the order sought by the women was “neither appropriate nor necessary”.
A report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in June concluded the number of self-inflicted deaths at Woodhill was a “huge concern”.
It also flagged up “chronic and substantial” staff shortages, and inspectors found almost half of the prison population spent the working day locked in their cells.
Following the report, Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prison and Probation Service, said staff had “worked tirelessly” to improve support and care for prisoners and there were no self-inflicted deaths last year.
Prisons minister Rory Stewart said there were also efforts made to recruit more staff, with 55 more officers in post this year than in October 2016 and a further 32 due to start by the end of November.