Family deserve
to know how man was left to die in prison cell

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There will be some people who don’t give two hoots about what Richard Walsh might, or more importantly, might not have done.

He was accused of stabbing two boys, aged 12 and 13, on June 26 at Havant.

And while he was awaiting trial for their attempted murder he was remanded into custody to HMP Belmarsh in south-east London, which is famous for its high security unit.

And that is where he hanged himself. In his cell in one of Britain’s supposedly most secure prisons.

How he was able to do that now seems to be becoming clear.

But what exactly lies behind those circumstances will not be known until we have the result of an investigation by the Probation and Prison Ombudsman.

Whether Richard Walsh was guilty or not of the attack on the boys we shall never know.

And that’s the point. He was on remand. He had not been convicted.

And as a remand prisoner accused of a serious offence, the duty of care that the Prison Service had for the 43-year-old was arguably greater than the responsibility it has for convicted prisoners.

His family, as we report on the front page today, are justified in demanding to know how he was allowed to kill himself.

The case leaves a nasty taste. At first the Ministry of Justice said, wrongly, that Walsh was being treated no differently to any other prisoner. Today it tells us a prison warder has been suspended.

Guards had been told to check on Walsh every three hours, yet he went unobserved for 15. And how, as the family ask, was he able to get the materials with which he took his life?

And all this when Juliet Lyon, the director or the Prison Reform Trust, says: ‘People remanded in custody for serious offences are known to be particularly at risk of suicide and self-harm.’

It might emerge that staffing levels at the prison are below what they should be, with prison officers overstretched. But we, and Richard Walsh’s family, deserve to know exactly what happened in that cell and how.