Inquest Jury conclude that prison failings contributed to the death of Michael Cook

Following over two weeks of evidence an inquest jury sitting in Maidstone concluded that 40 year old Michael Cook, who was found hanging in his cell in HMP Elmley on 22 March 2014, took his own life and that the breakdown of his relationship and lack of communication with him regarding progress of his recall documents contributed to this.

The inquest heard that Michael was recalled to prison on 8 March 2014, just 7 days after his release. He arrived at HMP Elmley on 10th March. There was initially some confusion over the reasons for the recall and Michael was unclear whether his recall was for 28 days or longer. The inquest heard that in fact he was not eligible for a 28 days recall but Michael did not appreciate this. His formal recall paperwork arrived at the prison on 17th March. A member of prison staff signed to acknowledge that it had been given to Michael but in fact it had not. The inquest heard that It was put in a tray for the attention of his offender supervisor, where it sat until 22nd March. According to policy it should have been given to Michael within 24 hours. On 21st March 2014 Michael made an application requesting that he be given his recall papers. The jury heard that as well as setting out the reason for the recall the paperwork allowed for Michael to make representations against his recall. The inquest heard that at this time staff shortages elsewhere in the prison meant that offender supervisors were regularly taken away from their duties to fill shortages on other wings. This meant that they could only deal with their OS duties in the evenings or at weekends. Because of this Michael was not given his recall documents before his death. The inquest heard that subsequently staff shortages were met by staff from other prisons meaning that Offender Supervisors could focus on their specific duties.

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