High risk prison inmate had threatened suicide
ACORONER has demanded improvements to mental health services at Birmingham Prison after an inmate who threatened to kill himself was found hanged.
Daniel Watkins said he would take his own life if he received a lengthy sentence for trying to kill his ex-girlfriend and a young girl in a fire.
But Birmingham Coroner’s Court heard he was not considered to be at high risk of suicide as he began a ten-year prison term.
He was later found hanged on a stairwell.
An inquest jury returned a suicide verdict but said his death could have been prevented by the intervention of the prison and a mental health team.
Birmingham Coroner Lou- ise Hunt said she would write to Birmingham Prison, Justice Minister Dominic Raab, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the Prisons Ombudsman, highlighting her concerns and demanding improvements to prevent future deaths.
“I want reassurances on prison officer training when dealing with mental health cases,” she said. “I want assurances about staff training generally and the safety of prisoners and staff. Lessons have to be learned.”
Giving evidence, his mother Theresa Jones said: “He said to me: ‘Mum, I can’t cope. I don’t think I am able to cope in here.’”
Mr Watkins, 35, of Smiths Close, Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, was found dead at the Winson Green jail on December 7 last year.
He had served just a month of his sentence, imposed at Wolverhampton Crown Court after he admitted two counts of attempted murder.
The fire, at an address in Cradley Heath on June 3, left a 34-year-old woman and a girl of six needing treatment for smoke inhalation.
Mr Watkins was put in a shared cell and monitored once a day, the inquest heard.
Anyone thought to be at risk of self-harm would be monitored five times a day or constantly.
The inquest verdict was returned last Thursday afternoon, just days after the boss of Birmingham Prison admitted that “dozens” of inmates were “intent on hurting themselves and others” every year.
Recently appointed governor, Richard Stedman, told the Birmingham Post in a wideranging interview: “We save dozens of people every year who are intent on hurting themselves and others.
“Those people need reassurance and that is the work that staff do here every single day – but it does not get the recognition it deserves.”
> Daniel Watkins died at Birmingham Prison