Inquest rules that a tragic youths death was not suicide
Compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – August 2011
Updates on this case are listed at the foot of this item
The father of a graffiti artist found hanged in jail has hit out at the “incompetence” of the prison system. An inquest into the death of 23-year-old Tom Collister, from Penge, revealed multiple failures in the care provided. Tom was found dead in his prison cell at HMP Camp Hill in Newport on the Isle of Wight on the morning of 7th February 2009.
An inquest jury returned a critical verdict on Friday 26 November 2010 highlighting multiple failures in the care provided to Tom Collister – a 23 year old graffiti artist found hanging in his cell on 7 February 2009 – in prison.
The jury found that the night patrol system on the night of Tom’s death did not provide adequate supervision to ensure prisoner safety on the wing. They also found that the response of the prison officer who discovered Tom’s body was inadequate and that officers had not been given adequate training on how to react in an emergency to suspected suicide or self-harm and also inadequate first aid and resuscitation training.
Tom was serving a 20-month sentence for damaging property after being linked to the tags SKEAMS, SKEAMZ, SKEAM and FDC.
His death was to be investigated by the prisons and probation ombudsman.
A Prison Service spokesman said: ”Staff attempted to revive him but sadly he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr Collister.”
Tom was given a sentence of 30 months in October 2008 for criminal damage and graffiti. He was initially remanded to HMP Wandsworth, a local prison, along with his co-defendants, where he was visited regularly and supported by his family and girlfriend.
In January 2009, without any explanation and while he was in the middle of a skills course and awaiting a medical appointment, Tom was transferred to HMP Camp Hill on the Isle of Wight, a distance that made visiting him difficult. His co-defendants remained in Wandsworth.
4WardEver readers and parents of Paul Day said:
The similarities in the deaths of both my son Paul and Tom Collister are frightening. Would you not think that Wandsworth had learned lessons after moving Paul from there to a prison 300 miles away from home where he also committed suicide.
We were promised vast changes in the transfer system when Paul died. What happened to the changes? Tom would not be dead if they had assessed him properly. This is a shocking case of neglect.
One of Tom’s friends said: “He had made some mistakes in his life and he had been punished for them. Yes he did a bit of graffiti but he was a guy that would help an old lady across the road or give up his seat on the bus.”
The family always believed that Tom did not intend to kill himself and that his death was a cry for help which went desperately wrong and are pleased that eventually an inquest jury agreed with them and found that he did not intend to take his life.
A private writer on the Internet commented: “It seems to me that there is a very grey area in our justice system. Murderers, rapists, paedophiles and other assorted monsters are given the most ridiculously lenient sentences which in no way reflect their crimes.
“Tom Collister, on the other hand, was given a 30 month custodial sentence for graffiti and was subsequently found dead from hanging in his cell this week.
“I am not saying that Tom did not deserve a custodial sentence, but how is it that rapists who maim their victims with acid to eradicate DNA evidence, are given a paltry 6 years behind bars and most probably counselling to boot. Of course, Tom’s crime was premeditated but then so are the actions of the monsters that murder, rape and kidnap.
“If graffiti carries a 30 month sentence and the people who decide to deface trains, subways etc know it, of course they should accept their punishment if they are caught.
“By the same token, shouldn’t someone that commits premeditated murder, rape, and kidnap or child molestation accept that they should spend the rest of their lives in prison? What do you think?”
INQUEST press release Tom Collister verdict Nov 2010
30 November 2010
Protest plan over graffiti artist’s death
12 August 2010
Tributes paid to hanged prisoner
9 February 2009