Southern Health to '˜improve assessments' after death of Havant man in custody

A HEALTH trust said it is improving assessments of people in custody after it was heavily criticised over a prisoner's suicide.

Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 6:44 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 1:44 pm
Police at the scene in Southleigh Road Picture: UKNIP

An inquest into 43-year-old Richard Walsh’s death, who had been accused of the attempted murder of two schoolboys in Havant, found he committed suicide after ‘neglect constituted by the gross failure to provide basic medical care’.

The jury at Southwark Coroner’s Court found two psychiatrists from Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services in Havant, failed to section him under the Mental Health Act when they assessed him at Waterlooville police station.

He was later remanded in custody at HMP Belmarsh by magistrates in June last year.

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Mr Walsh died the weekend before he was due to appear at Portsmouth Crown Court in July.

Dr Lesley Stevens, medical director at Southern Health, said: ‘We were very sorry to hear that Mr Walsh had died and we would like to express our sincerest condolences to his family.

‘Mr Walsh’s mental health was assessed immediately after his arrest by a multi-agency team, which decided that hospital treatment was not required.

‘We fully accept the jury’s findings and are acting quickly to improve assessments and communication between health organisations and the criminal justice system.

‘With around 70 per cent of inmates suffering from mental health problems, it is important to ensure that people’s mental health needs are understood and met while in prison.’

The two medics from Southern Health were joined by a Hampshire County Council mental health practitioner during the assessment.

A spokeswoman from the council said: ‘We have participated fully in the complex inquest process and will carefully consider the full findings of the inquest before making any further comment.’

A prison service spokeswoman said they have already taken action and accepted all the recommendations following the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman investigation.

She added: ‘We will now carefully consider the inquest findings to help ensure such incidents are not repeated.

‘Safety in prisons is fundamental to the proper functioning of our justice system and a vital part of our reform plans.’