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Tuesday, June 16, 1998 Published at 05:01 GMT 06:01 UK


Jail death inquiry criticises Prison Service

Prison overcrowding contributed to the killing, the report found

A three-year inquiry into the death of a mentally ill man who was held on remand in jail has severely criticised the agencies who handled his case.

The findings came after a vulnerable prisoner was murdered after being placed in the same cell as a violent schizophrenic.

Christopher Edwards, a 30-year-old graduate with mild mental problems, who was being held for breach of the peace in Chelmsford jail in Essex, was kicked to death by Richard Linford, 32, a paranoid schizophrenic with a 15-year history of violence.

BBC Social Affairs Editor Naill Dickson on the catalogue of errors that led to Mr Edwards' death
On November 28, 1994, Linford trampled his cell-mate to death, beating him so badly he could only be identified from his dental records.

Five months later, Linford admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was sent to Rampton special hospital.

[ image: Christopher Edwards: trampled to death]
Christopher Edwards: trampled to death
Now an independent inquiry, which cost 1m, has criticised agencies involved in the case.

A senior medical officer has been suspended as a result of the criticisms contained within the report for not passing on vital information about Linford's mental health.

Commenting on the report the Prison Service, director general Tony Pearson said the criticisms would be addressed and a programme of improvements was already underway both at Chelmsford and nationally.

That included agencies with information on a prisoner's mental state exchanging that knowledge, said Mr Pearson.

A new prisoner escort record will also be in operation from October which will accompany prisoners when they travel between courts and prisons.

Mr Pearson said: "Any death in prison is disturbing, especially for relatives, but also for staff and other prisoners.

[ image: Richard Linford: history of violence]
Richard Linford: history of violence
"When that death is a violent one it is a particularly harrowing experience.

"Thankfully this sort of incident is rare but it is none the less vital that we learn from the experience and strive to ensure that it doesn't happen again."

Mr Edwards' parents said he should never have been put in a cell with Linford, whom they say was known to be highly dangerous.

His father, Paul, has said the system for helping psychiatric patients was seriously inadequate.

The tribunal, headed by barrister Kieran Coonan QC, was asked to look at whether the care of both men by all the agencies involved met required standards.

Mental health campaign group Sane has described the case as "one of the most appalling cases involving neglect, lack of care, risk assessment and failure of communication."

Director Marjorie Wallace said: "It is a disgrace that two young men should be put in prison when their only crime was to suffer, in differing ways, from a serious mental illness.

"Both needed hospital care not a prison cell."

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