Prison service issue apology over Covid death of asthmatic inmate

Alan Inglis said his said his son, Calum, was never seen by a nurse and died 'without help, without dignity' at HMP Addiewell in West Lothian.

Prison service issue apology over Covid death of asthmatic inmate STV News

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has apologised following the death of an asthmatic prisoner who is said to have died alone in his cell during the pandemic.

Alan Inglis said his son, Calum, was never seen by a nurse and died “without help, without dignity” at HMP Addiewell in West Lothian.

The 34-year-old had reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 on October 12, 2021 while serving a short sentence at the privately run prison and died on October 24 after his health deteriorated rapidly.

Allister Purdie, director of operations for SPS, has now issued an apology at the Scottish Covid Inquiry.

It came after Alan Inglis called on the probe to deliver accountability at the inquiry last year.

Speaking in October, Mr Inglis said: “Calum was unvaccinated and was asthmatic. Within the next 12 days Calum’s health would deteriorate rapidly. Throughout this entire period he was not seen by a nurse.

“He reported being breathless and coughing up significant amounts of blood. In the last four days of his life he repeatedly requested medical attention via his cell intercom, to be promised by the prison officers that someone would see him.

“On October 24, 2021, two years today, my son was found unresponsive in his cell. He died alone, without help, without dignity.

“The Scottish Covid Inquiry must find out which protocols the prison were following at this time, protocols that would allow such barbaric behaviour to take place, and to examine the staff work culture within that prison where staff must have known how ill my son was, yet did nothing.

“I am looking for accountability and looking to this inquiry to deliver it.”

Giving evidence at the inquiry on Tuesday, Mr Purdie was questioned on the protocol for deaths in prison.

He said a death in prison learning outcome review would be carried out, followed by a fatal accident inquiry.

Mr Purdie said there should be “early communication with family”, through contact by senior member of the establishment, usually a governor, followed up by the chaplaincy or anyone who was close to the person who died.

Raising Mr Inglis’s evidence, senior counsel to the inquiry Alan Caskie KC said: “We heard evidence before Christmas from a gentleman who lost his son whilst in prison and the mechanism you described did not reflect his experience at all.

“Have you had the opportunity to review what was said at the time?”

Mr Purdie replied: “I haven’t personally and I really apologise if that has not happened.

“I’ve not had the opportunity to either formally review or actually look at the details of that case.”

HMP Addiewell is a private prison run by Sodexo Justice Services on behalf of the SPS.

Mr Purdie said there would be a difference due to death being at Addiewell in the format of the death in prison learning outcome review, but he would “still expect a director or a deputy director to follow that contact with the family”.

He added: “Apologies, I don’t have the details because I’ve not spoken to the director who was there at the time who has now left the company.”

The inquiry heard Mr Purdie has worked for the prison service since 1988 and took up his current post in March 2020, weeks before lockdown.

A week into the job he received a report outlining a figure of 600 potential pandemic deaths in Scotland’s prisons.

He said it was an “astonishing” figure, adding: “It took me aback. It was overwhelming to be faced with a statistic like that.”

The director told the inquiry there were 16 deaths from Covid-19 during the pandemic – five in 2020, nine in 2021 and two in 2022.

Mr Purdie credited prisoners for helping save lives and said their response was “unprecedented”.

“I’m not sure that you can ever be content that anybody dies in your care,” he told the inquiry.

“But in terms of the support and how we approached it we always had a focus in our mind from our chief executive down to protect people, to keep them safe, and to communicate and be as open and as honest as we can because we knew we’d have to put in place restrictions, and restrictions in a prison can sometimes have a negative impact on control.

“But from the outset we had that mindset to make sure it was clear, the communications was clear and the support that was put in place to protect and save people’s lives was at the forefront of everything that we did.”

The inquiry heard from his written statement which said: “It was not me, not the chief executive, it was the staff and prisoners on the ground who respected the rules.

“They took advantage of the support in place, they respected the restrictions and guidance that was everchanging and it is a credit to their attitude and approach that this helped save people’s lives and keep them safe. There is absolutely no doubt about that.”

The inquiry, before Lord Brailsford, continues.

A spokesperson at HMP Addiewell said previously: “We understand that this continues to be a very difficult time for Mr Inglis’s family and our thoughts and condolences remain with them.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage, but I can confirm that we are continuing to work with all relevant authorities in advance of any future fatal accident inquiry.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code
Posted in