Jury concludes that bullying, debt and drug abuse within HMP Liverpool exacerbated the conditions that caused the suicide of John Neil Duffey

Tuesday 19 December 2017

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Following a five day inquest at Liverpool Coroner's Court, a jury concluded that John Neil Duffey had intentionally killed himself on 16 July 2016 due to mental health issues that were exacerbated by bullying, debt and drug use at HMP Liverpool.

John, a former Corporal in the Royal Greens Jacket and a veteran of tours of duty in Northern Ireland was found hanging in his cell by his cellmate. John suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was disacharged from the armed force on medical grounds in 2000 after he attempted to hang himself. The family advised that John made a further attempt to hang himself in 2011. John suffered with alcohol and drug abuse after leaving the military.

John had completed a six month intensive programme that aims to help at-risk prisoners deal with substance and abuse issues, known as J2R ('Journey to Recovery'). On completion of J2R he was given trusted roles within the prison (wing cleaner and in an ad hoc role assisting other troubled prisoners).

The jury heard evidence that on the J2R Recovery wing drugs were available. John had also engaged with the psychotherapy services offered by Lancashire Care NHS Trust at the Prison, which the jury heard evidence that due to staff vacancies healthcare staff were not equipped to provide treatment for PTSD. There were no attempts made by the healthcare staff or prison to contact John's support worker in the community.

The jury heard that John received threats and was bullied because he fell into debt with other prisoners. The staff were informed several times by John that he was receiving threats by other prisoners that he identified. The jury heard evidence that John relapsed into drug use after he continued to fall into debt with other prisoners.

After John was found in his cell on 7 November 2015 with self-inflicted cuts to his wrist and in possession of a ligature, he informed prison officers that he had self-harmed due to his debt. An Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (a procedure to support prisoners at risk or in crisis) was opened but subsequently closed on 13 November 2015, as prison and healthcare staff judged the risk to John had sufficiently diminished.

Ifeanyi was instructed by Leanne Devine of Broudie Jackson Canter, who said:

“It is intolerable that Inquest after Inquest criticisms of HMP Liverpool have been identified by juries. Despite this there is no evidence of any changes being made to prevent future deaths. Where there is a culture of denying there is a problem, then there will be no change. We once again urge HMP Liverpool and the Prison Service as a whole to accept that this is a prison system in crisis.

The Former Bishop of Liverpool’s report published earlier this month identifies the issue of ‘Institutional Defensiveness’. We would urge HMP Liverpool and other institutions to approach these tragic cases with a recognition that change is needed.”

The family are grateful for the conclusion and hope that steps are taken by the prison and healthcare provide to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Broudie Jackson Canter have also reported about the inquest.

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