Stephen Bartman

Inquest finds prison failures led to a young mans tragic death

originally published: 11 January 2010
all credits: BBC News & other sources

Updates listed at the foot of this item

An inquest jury has said that management procedures at Bristol Prison were “seriously flawed”, after hearing how a man hanged himself at the jail. Stephen Bartman, 26, was found hanging from a sheet, nine hours after being admitted to the prison in May 2008. The hearing at Flax Bourton heard that a report that Bartman was a suicide risk was ignored by the prison staff. Deputy Coroner Brian Whitehouse said he would write to the prison’s governor to recommend procedures were tightened.

The court heard that on the day he died, Bartman, of Jacob’s Wells Road, Bristol, had been sentenced to 27 months for perjury. Staff at the custody suite of the city’s crown court noticed red marks on his neck and concluded that he had tried to strangle himself. They compiled a report for the prison, stating that in their view, Bartman – who was addicted to heroin – was a suicide risk.

On arrival at Bristol Prison, the vital warning paper work was handed over, but not acted upon. An investigation by Prisons Ombudsman Stephen Shaw revealed that a prison nurse noticed the red marks, but failed to act, and a prison officer in charge of his arrival also missed the warning signs.

Mr Shaw’s report concluded: “I’m seriously concerned at what this report reveals.”Tragically, the inadequate reception health screen, incomplete communication of Stephen’s behaviour at court and a poorly prepared physical environment, meant little was done to safeguard him.”

The inquest jury returned a verdict of suicide, but stated: “We consider that there were serious failures of the management of suicide risks at the various stages of Stephen’s induction at HM Prison, Bristol.”

Bartman’s stepfather, Michael Bailey, told the BBC: “I think he was seriously let down by the Prison Service.”They clearly have a duty of care towards every prisoner, and they clearly failed in Stephen’s case.”

In 2005 a report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons blamed inconsistent management for a catalogue of problems at the Bristol Prison. The report highlighted problems with safety and race relations, and said inmates did not have enough structured activities to occupy their time.

Anne Owers said the prison had “lost its way” blaming the fact the jail had three different governors in two years. The report found few jobs were available to inmates, with 60% unemployed yet statistics were disguising the true extent of the problem.


Follow-up News:

Bristol Prison ‘failed’ suicidal prisoner
11 January 2010

West: Bristol porridge
10 July 2003

Bristol prison downgraded
9 July 2003

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