Inquest finds Timothy John Shaw died as a result of drug toxicity whilst imprisoned at HMP Chelmsford

Wednesday 31 January 2018

Una Morris of Garden Court Chambers was instructed by Kelly Darlington, Jill Newton and David Corrigan at Farleys.

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On 28 February 2017, Tim was found unresponsive and unconscious in his cell. Tim was transferred to hospital, where urinalysis tests showed different illicit and prescription medication in his system. He died on 2 March 2017. The jury found the cause of death was hypoxic brain injury caused by drug toxicity. They concluded that his death was accidental, meaning that he did not intend to take his own life.

A press statement given by Sharon Shaw and Natalie Shaw, Tim's mother and sister, speaking on behalf of the family states:

"Tim was a loving, caring and funny son and brother and a good mate to all of his friends. There’s not a day goes by that we do not think about and miss Tim.

Tim had his problems and we as a family did everything we could, and more, to try to help him. There were times when he was doing well but unfortunately, sometimes Tim’s problems got the better of him.

When Tim went into prison in January 2016, we thought that this might be an opportunity for Tim to get help and support around his drug use.

The evidence that we have heard at the inquest suggests to us, that there was a significant problem with substance misuse in HMP Chelmsford, during the time that Tim was there.

What is of great concern to us from the evidence we have heard is that members of staff – both prison and healthcare staff – knew that there was a problem with substance misuse in HMP Chelmsford and, in our opinion, they did not do enough to prevent access to substances, to detect substance misuse and to support prisoners who were experiencing substance misuse issues.

When a person is in prison, as a society, we should expect that person to be properly cared for.  That’s what we expected for Tim but we think the system failed him in all aspects.

On 19 February 2017, there was an incident during which Tim collapsed and had to receive urgent medical care. This was described during the evidence as an incident which had the potential to result in death. It was believed by prison and healthcare staff that Tim was under the influence of an illicit substance.  Our view is that this represented a clear opportunity for some action to be taken to reduce the risk to Tim’s life from misuse of substances but no appropriate action was taken.

Tragically, on 28 February 2017, the evidence shows that Tim was able to take a number of different substances, which led to a cardiac arrest. Tim died in hospital on 2 March 2017, when life support was withdrawn. The jury found the medical cause of Tim’s death to be hypoxic brain injury and drug toxicity.

The jury believe:

“…with more resources and better communication further steps could possibly have been taken to manage Mr Shaw’s risk of dying and may have prevented his death.”

We believe that nobody in our prisons should die as a result of taking illicit drugs and/or unprescribed medication.

Nothing is going to bring Tim back but we hope that lessons are learned and no other family has to go through what we have been through.

We would like to add that we have found the inquest to be an extremely challenging process. We have been represented by Farleys Solicitors and our barrister Una Morris from Garden Court Chambers. We believe that all families should have access to representation during what is a difficult and sad time and that representation for families should be paid for by the state through legal aid, particularly in cases where the state is represented and funding that representation using public money."

This case has been covered in the press including in BBC Essex and Essex Live.

Una Morris is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Inquests and Inquiries Team.

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