The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Shamik Dutta and Manveer Bhullar of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors and Tom Stoate of Garden Court Chambers.
Terry Ojuederie, 42, from Watford, died in the early hours of 9 December 2015 whilst detained at HMP Peterborough (run by Sodexo Justice Services) after a sustained violent assault by his cellmate Jordan Palmer. He was pronounced dead in his cell and died shortly before he was due to be released. The Senior Investigating Officer at Cambridgeshire Police, DCI Gallop, described the attack as “one of the most vicious” he had seen. On 19 October 2016, a jury at Peterborough Crown Court convicted Mr Palmer of manslaughter by diminished responsibility on the grounds of involuntarily ingesting the psychoactive substance “Spice” and he was subsequently sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. The case was heard by Assistant Coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Sean Horsead, Huntingdon Coroner's Court and took place between 4 - 19 December 2017.
The Jury concluded that a catalogue of failures contributed to Mr Ojuederie’s death including that:
- In light of a security intelligence report and supporting evidence relating to Jordan Palmer that Mr Palmer had been in possession of a large blade, the jury concluded it was “surprising and unacceptable” that this was not more thoroughly investigated, including a targeted cell search;
- Mr Palmer’s cell sharing risk assessment should have been reviewed following thorough investigations;
- It was “widely known that Spice was rife within the prison”;
- Although the Prison recognised the risk that Spice might cause an individual to react in an extremely violent manner, staff and management at HMP Peterborough made “insufficient efforts to reduce its availability” in prison;
- “No formal training” was given to staff in recognising and dealing with “the risk of an extremely violent reaction from Spice”;
- There was “confusion” as to what staff should do if they suspected somebody was under the influence of Spice, with “no clear guidelines” given to them;
The inquest jury also concluded that it was possible that a request was made for Palmer to move cells, and if so, that insufficient steps were taken to investigate that request (which should have been logged).
The inquest was also beset by disclosure failures on the part of HMP Peterborough, which were described by the Coroner as “nothing short of shambolic”. This included Senior Prison Custody Officer book for Mr Palmer’s houseblock and a wing observation book, which had been requested by the police in the homicide investigation, but emerged on the ninth day of the inquest.
Prevention of Future Deaths
At the conclusion of the inquest the Assistant Coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Sean Horstead, announced that he would be sending a statutory ‘Preventing Future Deaths’ report to Sodexo Justice Services, the private company which operates HMP Peterborough on behalf of the
Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Justice, in relation to his significant concerns at the nature and extent that the risk of Spice presents in prisons. He is also considering further issues, based on the jury’s conclusions.
Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST said:
This horrendous case is symptomatic of the perilous state of prisons, with high rates of violence, drug problems, homicides and self-inflicted deaths. Whilst government rhetoric on dealing with spice focuses on the supply, it overlooks intelligence sharing, staff training and the health and safety of prisoners.
This is the second inquest this month on a homicide in prison which identified failures to act on intelligence and risk assessments.
This press release was originally published by INQUEST.