Jail blocks inmate from seeing dying mother
AFAMILY has slammed officials at Strangeways after a prisoner had to say his goodbyes to his dying mother over the phone.
Relatives of Barbara Edge gathered at her bedside when doctors told them she had only hours to live.
A senior doctor and her family telephoned the jail requesting her son, Carl Birchall, be allowed to visit her at Salford Royal.
Mr Birchall, 30, is currently being held on remand at the Manchester prison after being charged with common assault and actual bodily harm.
But Mr Birchall was not freed under guard and had to say his final goodbye on the phone. Prison bosses say they were assessing the request when his mother passed away. Mrs Edge’s family also fear he will not be allowed to attend his mother’s funeral either.
Carl’s sister, Stacey Birchall, 24, of Lower Kersal, said: “My mum had only been in hospital two days when she started to deteriorate quickly. She had emphysema and was admitted on a general ward but the next day was put in intensive care.
“My mum had five children and all of us were there except Carl.
“A senior doctor spoke to a prison chaplain and strongly advised them to get Carl to the hospital so he could say his goodbyes to his mum.
“I also spoke to a chaplain as did other members of my family. We asked to speak to the prison governor but were refused.
“Carl was the one who was closest to his mother.
“In the end he had to speak to her on a mobile phone which was on a loud speaker, which we placed next to my mum.
“It was undignified. Carl is not a Category A prisoner. He has been on remand for two weeks and is innocent until proved guilty of the assault. It was disgusting the way our family was treated.”
Mrs Edge, 56, died last Wednesday, 24 hours after the request was made to the prison. Stacey added: “We first contacted the prison the day before when her condition began to worsen.
“We have spoken to our solicitor about the situation and he has warned us there might only be a 50/50 chance that Carl will be allowed to attend the funeral.”
The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed Mr Birchall had been held on remand after committing the alleged offence.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The prison system should not be downright cruel to the innocent families of people held in prison. Is this prison so seriously understaffed that it cannot get a son to his dying mother?”
It is understood the prison was in the process of dealing with the request and making a risk assessment when Mrs Edge died.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “We do not comment on individual prisoners.
“Prisoners can apply for escorted visits to attend the funeral of a close relative, but it will always be subject to a strict assessment where public protection is the key.”
Carl, right, with brother Dale and mum Barbara