Prisoner bled to death on a cell floor
compiled from various sources
Originally published 28th December 2009
Updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Aleksey Baranovsky, aged 33, died in June 2006 in the health centre of HMP Rye Hill, near Daventry, where he was serving a seven-year sentence for burglary. The bleeding to death of Aleksey in prison is an outrage. It took him hours to die. He had repeatedly injured himself and was meant to be on a special watch to protect him.
When he came to England he had dreams of living well. His life became a nightmare and he died neglected and alone in a prison cell. Like thousands of other young, ambitious people from the former Soviet Union, he wanted to prosper from the opportunities opening up to his generation.
His death was not just a tragedy for Baranovsky who, with care, might still be alive. It is also a bitter example of flaws in Britain’s penal system generally and failings specific to the unit where he died.
His family believes Aleksey was trying to free himself from the clutches of the Russian mafia who were running a corrupt exchange programme scheme when, in December 1998, he made an application for political asylum in the UK, stating that he was in fear of his life from Russian criminals. Despite his best efforts, his application was turned down in 2001. He became homeless and penniless, on the streets in a foreign country.
He slid into crime. In 2003, Aleksey was jailed for seven years for a series of burglaries at top London department stores. It seems no one questioned how a man with no history of crime could pull off raids netting more than £200,000.
His sister, Tatyana, said: “To find himself in prison in a foreign country would have been a bitter blow and would have made him feel like he had failed.” Fearful of reprisals from Russian organised criminals, Aleksey was moved to seven different prisons.
An inquest into his death heard how he staged “a sort of protest” by repeatedly cutting himself and refusing medical treatment. Having been placed on the suicide and self-harm watch (SASH), he was also refusing food and frequently re-opened his wounds. Prison guards repeatedly found him on the floor of his cell, covered in blood and on one occasion they failed to clean the cell for over 12 hours.
A first post mortem carried out in 2006 by Dr Louay Al Alousi concluded that Aleksey had died as a result of malnutrition. However, Home Office pathologist Dr Kenneth Shorrock, who conducted a second post mortem in August 2006, said the cause of death was most likely to be anaemia caused by blood loss. He said: “I was dependant very much on what I had been told and that’s because there had been significant deterioration of the body but I did form some conclusions. “He had then lost a substantial amount of blood subsequent to that and I think that’s significant”.
Angela Pereira was the healthcare manager at Rye Hill. With 20 years’ experience as a mental health nurse, she was responsible for managing Aleksey’s care and directing the team. When she met him for the first time, just hours before he died, he asked her for a doctor. She did not follow up on this. Neither did she remember being told that his mother had died, although she did attend a meeting where staff were given the news. A subsequent investigation by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman concluded that she failed to provide the standard of care reasonably expected of someone in this crucial role.
Similar criticisms were made of Rye Hill’s medical provision 12 months earlier when inmate Michael Bailey killed himself while on suicide watch. Bailey displayed signs of severe psychosis, on one occasion being left naked reciting the Lord’s Prayer in the prison’s exercise yard. Again Dr West was involved in the case. Tom Osbourne, deputy coroner for Northamptonshire, was blunt in his assessment of the four months Aleksey spent at Rye Hill. At the end of the inquest he described the young man’s treatment as “shameful and appalling”.
Frances Crook, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Last year 60 prisoners took their own lives in prisons; an improvement on previous years but still a terrible waste of human life. Private prisons were introduced ostensibly to do things better and improve outcomes, but that has simply not happened. The death rate in the prisons for profit is the same, and sometimes worse, than state prisons.
“The other issue is the contracting out culture. Private prisons do not use the NHS but contract with private health care companies. This means that the services are working to a contract. It encourages a risk averse culture, unwillingness to experiment or innovate, and services that are the lowest level in order to ensure a profit for the company. The motive is to make a profit; not to provide a service”.
The inquest jury heard the concerns of Stephen Shaw, the prisons ombudsman responsible for investigating deaths in custody since 1999. He raised several concerns, particularly the practice of prison staff monitoring prisoners on suicide watch through closed cell doors.
This had been the focus of his criticism into the controversial death Michael Bailey at Rye Hill in early 2005. The ombudsman’s report stated the “practice was unacceptable then, it remains unacceptable now”.
While the officer who raised the alarm, Sue Johnson, was praised for her compassion, other staff were severely criticised in the ombudsman’s report, which recommended that four staff should be investigated and, if necessary, their performance referred to professional bodies.