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Inquest into prison death; OFFICER FAILED TO ORDER 24-HOUR WATCH.

Byline: ALASTAIR CRAIG

THE prison officer guarding an inmate found hanged in her cell failed to order 24-hour suicide watch, despite her previously attempting to take her life.

Senior officer Benjamin Green admitted Kerry Devereux should have been checked more regularly, an inquest heard.

He said he did not order that she should receive constant supervision in her cell, even after a health assessment finding the 32-year-old at "high risk" of suicide the night before her death.

At the time of her death at Foston Hall in South Derbyshire, Miss Devereux, from Newcastle's West End, was being checked twice an hour.

The following morning she was found hanged by a belt in her cell.

Mr Green said the health assessment report he had read mentioned that Miss Devereux had tried to hang herself the day before she died.

Mr Green told Derby and South Derbyshire's Coroners Court: "I accept on reflection that constant observation would have been more beneficial at that point."

The court heard that on the day before her death, Miss Devereux had been brought to a segregation cell after an alleged assault on a fellow inmate. That evening the mum-of-two was interviewed by health care assistant Shirley Ballard.

Mrs Ballard said she was shocked when she entered Miss Devereux's cell, adding: "She seemed almost calm when discussing death and said she wanted to die. It is almost as if she had decided."

The court heard that after the assessment, a call was made to Mr Green, who then visited the cell block where Miss Devereux was being kept.

But he said he decided to maintain only twice hourly observation and chose not to remove items from which could be used to commit suicide.

He said: "When I had spoken to the nurse on duty she informed me that Kerry had seemed calmer and not as distressed. I thought observation every half an hour was appropriate."

"When I returned to the segregation unit I felt that entering Kerry's room and taking items could have led to more distress for her then."

Derby and South Derbyshire Coroner Robert Hunter then said: "It might have led to more distress but it may have stopped her hanging herself with her belt."

Miss Devereux had been transferred to Foston Hall from Low Newton Prison, in Durham. She had been jailed for drugs-related offences and would have been considered for release in August 2007.

The inquest continues.

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be looked after by her mother Helen, right, at her Benwell home
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 16, 2009
Words:418
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