HMP Nottingham: Governor admits 'failings' over inmate death

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Nottingham Prison GVImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
The Category B prison holds up to 800 inmates after the numbers were reduced from 1,060

There were "failings at all levels" over the death of an inmate, the governor of a troubled prison has said.

Ben Ireson, 31, was found hanged at HMP Nottingham on 13 December 2018.

The inquest heard at length about the prison's problems, including how it became the first in the UK to be issued an urgent notification letter.

Phil Novis, who took over running the jail in July 2018, said it was "the worst I have ever been to" in a 30-year career, but improvements had been made.

The inquest heard Mr Ireson had arrived at the Category B site in October 2018 and told his mother on the phone that he wanted to harm himself.

He was subsequently put on a programme to monitor his mental health but had been removed from it before he died.

The court was told he spoke to his mother on the evening of 12 December in a "very emotional" call but his cell neighbour reported having "no concerns" that Mr Ireson was planning to harm himself.

'Absolute chaos'

Five inmates took their own lives at the prison between September and October 2017, with another two in the months before Mr Ireson's death.

Laurinda Bower, assistant coroner for Nottinghamshire, said reports by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman found "repeated" problems with record-keeping and communication between staff at the prison.

Mr Novis said he had been brought in as a "trouble-shooter" to turn around the prison's fortunes, which was "absolute chaos" when he arrived.

He said there had been "green shoots" of improvement by November, but this "was not quick enough for Ben".

"Clearly there were management failings at all levels - up to, and including, me," he said.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Phil Novis said he recognised there was more to do at HMP Nottingham

Since Mr Ireson's death, there have been no self-inflicted deaths at the jail, the inquest heard.

Mr Novis said there were new systems in place, including assigning each prisoner a "key worker" and more regular staff meetings, but said more improvements were needed.

"My view is we're only halfway [to] where we need to be," he said.

The inquest has completed hearing evidence and the jury will be sent out on Friday.

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