cell doorAn inquest jury has found a multitude of failures at HMP Highpoint contributed to the death of a man with long-standing mental health issues.

David Smith died at HMP Highpoint, aged 38, following an incident of serious self-harm on May 23, 2014. David was a vulnerable prisoner who had been sentenced to 3½ years in prison on May 14, 2014. He had a long history of anxiety, depression and self-harm. He was transferred from HMP Chelmsford to HMP Highpoint on May 23, 2014, and later that evening he attempted suicide and died the following day in hospital. 

The jury found that the following failures were contributory factors in David’s death: 

Lack of training of prison officers

Insufficient staff on duty

Lack of awareness of protocols by prison staff

Failure to follow protocols to check logs and wing books

Lack of compassion for prisoners

Failure to open earlier a suicide and self-harm procedure (Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT))

Failure to properly complete and implement the ACCT when opened.

Julie, Tony, Adam and Wayne, David’s parents and brothers said in a statement: “David should be with us today. Our son was calling out for help, but no one helped him and he should not be dead. If they had done their job he would still be here today.

“We’d like to thank the jury for their hard work and being for our family. We got the justice that David deserved.

“David will be deeply missed."

Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST, which has been working with David’s family since 2014, said the finding encapsulates the crisis within our prison system. “This is yet another jury finding of failures at HMP Highpoint relating to the death of a vulnerable prisoner with unmet mental health needs. HMP Highpoint is not learning from its own failures or improving the care and support provided to prisoners.

“The failures identified by this inquest must be responded to by the Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah.”

Sara Lomri, family solicitor, added: “The jury heard evidence from a range of sources and concluded that, in addition to failures of staff planning and training, those charged with the care of David lacked a basic level of compassion.

“This inquest was the third of four linked inquests arising out of cluster of self-inflicted deaths of young men at HMP Highpoint in 2013/2014. It is vital that lessons are learned by the management of the prison and steps are taken to ensure that the failings identified by David’s inquest and by those of the other three prisoners are comprehensively addressed to ensure that further deaths can be avoided.”

The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Anna Thwaites and Sara Lomri from Bindmans LLP and Counsel Taimour Lay from Garden Court Chambers.