Bedford prison '100%' to blame for officer death, says father

By Ben Schofield
BBC Look East political correspondent

  • Published
Kelly HewittImage source, John Hewitt
Image caption,
Kelly Hewitt's body was discovered at her home on 18 December 2018

The father of a prison officer who apparently took her own life has blamed her death "100%" on her workplace.

John Hewitt said his daughter Kelly was "hounded" by management at HMP Bedford before her death in December 2018.

He said: "The people at the time [who ran the prison] didn't understand what she was going through and didn't want to understand."

The Prison Service said it took staff mental health "extremely seriously".

The BBC understands the Prison Service is conducting a review, independent of HMP Bedford, into the 24-year-old's death.

An inquest is yet to be held.

Overdose after shift

Her mental health suffered after she was hit by a car in the prison car park in June 2018, according to documents seen by the BBC.

She returned to work on restricted duties but in September took a non-fatal overdose shortly after completing a shift.

In a letter, her line manager told Ms Hewitt her restricted duties would "disrupt the regime and put a lot of pressure on your colleagues".

Ms Hewitt was then summoned to a meeting the following month to discuss "shortfalls" in her attendance arising from her accident, mental health problems and the overdose.

A written warning was subsequently given to Ms Hewitt in November, but on an unrelated matter.

Image source, John Hewitt
Image caption,
John Hewitt believes his daughter Kelly would still be alive had she not joined the Prison Service

She was accused of "influencing others when they should be carrying out their duties".

In a letter to the governor, which has been seen by the BBC, Ms Hewitt complained she had not had a meeting to answer the allegation.

Her body was discovered at her home on 18 December 2018.

'Desperate to earn money'

Mr Hewitt, from Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, said he felt his daughter was "treated like an animal".

He also claimed his daughter was initially only provided with telephone consultations with a private occupational health provider, following her first attempt at ending her life, and said: "I don't know how you can assess somebody over the phone that's just taken an overdose."

"You are talking about a girl that was poorly and desperate to earn money."

Ms Hewitt was finally provided with a face-to face-assessment in late November, he said.

A follow-up report by the provider, OH Assist, said a stress risk assessment that had been previously recommended had not been carried out by the prison.

Mr Hewitt said "up to the point of Kelly's death they didn't do what they were asked to do".

Asked if he believed the prison was to blame for her death, he said: "One hundred percent, entirely".

A spokesman for the Prison Service told the BBC: "Our thoughts remain with Kelly Hewitt's family and friends around the anniversary of her death.

"While commenting on these specific claims could prejudice the inquest, we take our staff's mental health extremely seriously, offering a range of services such as 24/7 counselling and trauma support."

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