Preston cell death officers given suspended sentences

Two married prison officers who admitted misconduct in a public office after the death of a 36-year-old inmate have been given suspended sentences.

Christopher Oldham was found hanged in his cell in HMP Preston in April 2011. He was on remand after being accused of perverting the course of justice.

Shaun Percy, 50, and his wife Lisa, 51, of Walton-le-Dale, were given 12-month jail terms suspended for two years.

Both had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing at Preston Crown Court.

Mr Oldham, 36, hanged himself a few minutes after Shaun Percy visited his cell.

His body lay undiscovered for three hours because Percy failed to carry out compulsory half-hour checks, Preston Crown Court was told.

'Serious breaches'

He also falsified records to say Mr Oldham, who was by then dead, was sat on his bed watching television and later told him he was feeling okay.

His supervising officer, wife Lisa, added further entries and forged Percy's signature to show he made checks up to the point when the death was revealed.

Both pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, before their scheduled trial, to an offence of misconduct in a public office.

It was accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service that the defendants' actions did not play a part in the death of Mr Oldham who would have suffered "rapid unconsciousness and death" according to a post-mortem examination.

Kate Blackwell QC, prosecuting, said Shaun Percy also failed to perform similar checks on three other prisoners at risk of suicide on the same evening.

It could not be treated as an isolated incident either because subsequent inquiries revealed similar neglect the evening before when he only performed three out of 14 recorded cell checks, she said.

Sentencing the couple from Walton-le-Dale, Lancashire, Judge Anthony Russell QC said: "I must make it clear were it to be the case had negligence led to the cause of death then very much graver charges would have been pursued.

"These are serious breaches of duty. There could be circumstances where a failure to comply with such procedures would have affected the health and well-being of a prisoner."

He said he also took into account that the Percys had suffered punishment in other ways after losing their jobs, home, reputations and were both in poor health.

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