Jury finds that neglect significantly contributed to a black prisoner’s death

Thursday 5 May 2016

A jury has returned a highly critical narrative conclusion following the inquest into the death of 29-year-old Shalane Blackwood, who died from a burst duo-denal ulcer on 5 August 2015, at HMP Nottingham.

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The jury heard that Shalane had been moved to the Segregation Unit in HMP Nottingham on 7 July 2015 and remained there until his death nearly a month later. A prison Governor decided at least four officers had to be present in order for his cell to be opened. Due to insufficient staffing levels the jury heard medical professionals often could not access Shalane. He experienced a serious deterioration in his health.

The case has been reported by the Derby Telegraph and the Nottingham Post.

The day before his death, blood was discovered in Shalane’s cell and body. He was restrained whilst a physical examination was carried out but the bleeding was not identified. During the course of the inquest a member of healthcare staff admitted under questioning that Shalane should have been taken to hospital at that point. However, Shalane was not transferred to hospital and the following morning, on 5 August, he was found dead in his cell.

In their narrative conclusion, the jury found that Shalane’s bleeding “should have been diagnosed and treated”. They went on to find that “systemic failings amounting to neglect by prison staff and Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust  healthcare staff significantly contributed to Shalane’s death.”

Shalane’s mother, Linda Blackwood said:

“I couldn’t be happier with the Jury’s conclusion and I want to thank Lester Morrill Solicitors and my barrister Ifeanyi Odogwu for their help throughout the Inquest. I also want to thank my family and friends for their support throughout. 

As a mother I knew something was wrong with my son when he was in HMP Nottingham - I just wish my concerns had been listened to at the time when I raised them. I feel Shalane’s death could have been prevented.” 

Rebecca Treece, solicitor representing Shalane’s family said:

“This inquest has highlighted failures within HMP Nottingham and wider issues concerning the standard of healthcare in prisons. It is deeply concerning that Shalane was found with blood in his cell and, even though the source was not identified, further investigations were not sought. Shalane’s family were particularly shocked by this. 

Whilst I am pleased that the Jury have recognised that systemic failings contributed to Shalane’s death, urgent action is needed to address the issues which this inquest has uncovered.”     

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: 

“The jury rejected the prison’s claim that they did not know Shalane was in need of medical assistance. Instead they concluded that neglect by both prison and healthcare staff significantly contributed to his death. It is shocking that someone in need of medical care was kept in segregation. 

The prison attempted to rely on the possible side effects of a ‘legal high’, black mamba, found in his body - despite him being in segregation for a month - as justification for why they were unaware of his deteriorating health. Concerns about the prevalence of ‘legal highs’ in prisons must not deflect attention away from deteriorating regimes and conditions in prisons and systemic failings in the treatment and care of vulnerable prisoners.”

INQUEST has been working with the family of Shalane Blackwood since August 2015. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Rebecca Treece from Lester Morrill Solicitors and Ifeanyi Odogwu from Garden Court Chambers.

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