Kassa Osebu inquest: bullying, intimidation and widespread failures in ACCT and cell-sharing procedures at HMP Leeds

Wednesday 27 June 2012

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An inquest jury has returned a highly critical narrative verdict following the death in prison custody of Kassa Osebu in 2007. The verdict highlighted how prison staff turned a blind eye to bullying and harassment at Leeds Armley Prison, and also how appropriate procedures were not followed.

The inquest sought to comply with the investigative obligations under Article 2 of the ECHR protecting the right to life. It heard witness testimony from other prisoners who believed Mr Osebu had been bullied and suffered racial harassment. It also heard how communication failures between healthcare and discipline staff at the prison meant that crucial information about Mr Osebu's risk of self harm was not passed on.

The jury, who were praised for their active engagement in the inquest process, returned an extremely critical narrative verdict, finding:

  • Mr Osebu had been bullied by other inmates, although not by Prison Officers on C-Wing
  • Prison Officers on C-Wing turned a blind eye to the inmates bullying Mr Osebu
  • Inadequate implementation of prison procedures:
    • The Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) document was closed too early by the staff in Health Care Unit
    • No post-closure review was undertaken
    • No follow up action plan or support network was in place as per the guidelines set out in the ACCT document
    • An inappropriate time location of case review meeting while Mr Osebu was in hospital.
    • Not all members of the multidisciplinary team were present at the case review meeting with Mr Osebu on 11 July 2007
  • Failure to conduct a single cell risk assessment review prior to transfer from Health Care to C-Wing
  • Inadequate handover process from Health Care to C-Wing
  • Failure of the Personal Officer Scheme on C-Wing to provide ongoing support for Mr Osebu
  • Failure of Prison management to ensure that the Personal Officer Scheme was workable on C-Wing
  • Inadequate implementation for the training programme for the Personal Officer Scheme
  • Placement of Mr Osebu in education classes which did not take into account his level of English
  • Failure to use translation services at key times to understand Mr Osebu's concerns, issues and state of mind

The Jury also considered that there were other factors which made Mr Osebu fearful of his own future which contributed to his death namely his legal status in the UK, potential life sentence and the general isolation Mr Osebu would have felt on C-Wing due to his language difficulties, single cell occupancy and the harsh reality of life on C-Wing.

The case has attracted a great deal of media attention, having been reported for example in The Guardian.

Leslie was instructed by Fiona Borrill and Imogen Hamblin of Lester Morrill Solicitors.

Leslie Thomas is a member of the Garden Court Inquests and Claims against the Police and Public Authorities Teams.

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