In the Media

Watchdog condemns suicide rate at Manchester prison

PUBLISHED February 22, 2012

Inspector of prisons criticises staff at HMP Manchester, formerly Strangeways, for adopting 'degree of fatalism' towards deaths

The suicide rate at Manchester prison has been too high for too long, according to the independent prisons watchdog. There have been seven self-inflicted deaths in less than two years at HMP Manchester, which was formerly known as Strangeways.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons found that staff regarded the deaths as "the way things were in Manchester".

So far in 2012, there have been two high-profile deaths at the prison. Barry Morrow, who was on remand charged with the murders of his landlady and her mother, was found dead in his cell earlier this month. In January, paedophile rapist Martin Smith, whose partner is in custody in Spain charged with murdering their two young children, was found dead in his cell.

Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, said the facility had not ensured that lessons had been learned. While incidents of self-harm had decreased significantly from 22 a month in 2009 to 10 a month in 2011, there was a degree of fatalism, Hardwick said, in the prison's response to incidents. There was room for improvement with arrangements for caring for prisoners at risk of self-harm or suicide, he added.

However, Hardwick said that, whereas just over 20 years ago the prison had a notorious reputation, "it is now completely transformed and in many ways provides a model to which other local prisons should aspire".

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said the number of suicides at HMP Manchester was not disproportionate to comparable institutions, but insisted there was no complacency.

"Every self-inflicted death is a tragedy which impacts not only on families, but also on prisoners and prison staff," he said. He said he was pleased that the prison is performing well ? or reasonably well ? in the areas of safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement.

Morrow was due to face trial in May over the deaths of Angela Holgate and Alice Huyton, whose bodies were found in Southport in December. Prison staff found him hanging in his cell on 9 February.

On 23 January, Martin Smith's body was found hanging in his cell. In March 2011, he was jailed for 16 years for raping a girl under 16 in Cumbria. An inquest will take place at a later date, but police said his death was not being treated as suspicious. His partner, Lianne Smith, is in custody in Spain awaiting trial for the murder of their two young children. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds