Jury to decide on prison death inquest

Isle of Man Courthouse

Isle of Man Courthouse

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A three-and-a-half-week inquest into the death of a man who died in Jurby prison has come to an end with a jury set to deliver a verdict this week.

Michael Joseph Davidson, aged 26, was on remand when he was found dead in his cell by other prisoners.

Two pathologists’ reports recorded the cause of death as toxicity, due to methadone with dihydrocodeine and diazepam.

Evidence has been heard from more than 80 witnesses, including prison officers, police, prison medical staff, hospital staff and prisoners.

Coroner of inquests John Needham gave his summing up on Friday, describing the series of events which led to Mr Davidson’s death on Tuesday, March 13, 2012.

The court heard how Mr Davidson had been arrested in the early hours of Sunday, March 11, after an altercation near the Outback in Barrack Street, Douglas.

Upon arrival at police headquarters he was ‘unresponsive’ and was subsequently taken to the accident and emergency department at Noble’s Hospital.

Mr Davidson later told some prisoners that he had overdosed after taking an Ecstasy tablet.

After being deemed fit to return to police headquarters, he appeared in court on the Monday morning, charged with affray and criminal damage.

He was denied bail and remanded at the prison.

Mr Davidson was found by fellow inmates on the Tuesday morning at 9am in his cell on his bed, and was said to be ‘blue, with no pulse’.

Despite resuscitation attempts he was pronounced dead at 9.26am.

Mr Needham said that, among the things the seven-strong jury needed to consider, were:

l Was Mr Davidson taking his medication as prescribed?

l Was he taking any illicit drugs, was his arrest and medical treatment during custody handled correctly?

l Was he honest with medical staff about what drugs he was using?

The coroner said that they would have to decide whether there had been any ‘gross failure’ to provide medical care.

During the inquest there have been allegations that police failed to fill in forms correctly in relation to medication given to Mr Davidson when transferring him to jail.

Further allegations were made that medical staff at the prison do not refer to the forms anyway, even if they are included in the transfer of the prisoner.

Prison medical staff admitted that no medical examination had been done upon Mr Davidson’s arrival at the prison, saying that procedure allows 24 hours to do this.

Mr Davidson was also alleged to have told medical staff that he could not take methadone as it put him in danger of having a heart attack, only to be told by the staff that it was ‘methadone or nothing’.

Mr Davidson had said that he had previously had a heart attack in Manchester but no medical record of this could be found.

In closing, the coroner said to the jury: ‘You may question if there was a bit of blame game being played. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how important the passing on of medical information is.

‘It’s a matter for you to consider whether a lack of appropriate medical assessment contributed to Mr Davidson’s death.’

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