Essex

Dean Saunders death: Justice secretary 'sorry' for prison suicide

Dean Saunders' family walk to meeting
Image caption Dean Saunders' family said they were "owed" the chance to meet Liz Truss to find out what had gone wrong in their son's case

The family of a man who killed himself in jail have received an apology from Justice Secretary Liz Truss.

Dean Saunders, 25, of Basildon, electrocuted himself at Chelmsford Prison, Essex, in January 2016.

An inquest and the Prisons Ombudsman found Mr Saunders, who had mental health issues, was let down by the justice system.

His father, Mark Saunders, said the apology at a London meeting was "welcomed" by his family.

Image caption Dean Saunders was a father of one

Mr Saunders' parents said they had pressed for Tuesday's meeting with Ms Truss as they were "owed" an explanation for their son's death and were "angry".

"She did apologise to us, straight from the off, and we welcomed that," said Mr Saunders.

"It was simply, 'I'm sorry about Dean and the way he was failed'."

Dean died after being arrested for stabbing his father as he tried to stop him harming himself during a bout of paranoia.

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman said the father-of-one was at "high risk of suicide" when he arrived at Chelmsford and identified "a number of weaknesses" in the prison's handling of his case.

It said those involved in his care felt he should have been in a mental health facility.

Image copyright Mark Saunders
Image caption Donna and Mark Saunders (far left and second left) met Liz Truss with Dean Saunders' partner Clare Hobday-Saunders (second right) and Sam Gyimah (far right)

The meeting was also attended by Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah.

Mr Saunders said Ms Truss "agreed with the failings and that Dean's situation should never have come to what it did".

"She wants to include us in decisions... and is going to involve us in the turning around of the state of the prisons."

His wife, Donna, said: "Sorry doesn't give me back my son, so if they're sorry prove they are sorry by making the changes."

Ministers are due to publish a bill to reform prison and courts this month.

The Ministry of Justice has been approached for comment.

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