Ian Brownhill has acted in the inquest into the extraordinary death of Edward Ham, a prisoner at HMP Oakwood. Brownhill was instructed on behalf of two of the family members.

Late in October 2012, Edward Ham, or Steve as he was known to his friends and family, went to healthcare at HMP Birmingham with High Blood pressure. Two days later his blood pressure was still high and he was referred to a prison Doctor. That Doctor, without any diagnostic tests, not even a blood test, put Steve on medication.

A few months later Steve found himself transferred to HMP Oakwood. Upon arrival he was asked screening questions about his health. In an inquest into Steve’s death, Ian Brownhill asked the nurse why the cardiac questions on the screening test had not been answered. The nurse couldn’t say. Brownhill went on to ask, why no referral was made for tests for Mr Ham. Again, the nurse couldn’t say.

The day before he died, Steve saw a GP in the prison. He saw him and was told he was fit to go the gym. Further tests were ordered about his high blood pressure.

In the early hours of the morning of 6 February 2013, Steve rang his cell bell and complained of chest pain. No ambulance was called. No doctor was called. In the inquest, the coroner accepted after Brownhill’s questioning of the officers that there was uncertainty about what was said with regard to a doctor being called.

Later that morning, Steve was found unresponsive in his cell. The two private prison officers didn’t have more than two years experience between them. Chaos followed, both officers accepted that they panicked. One officer couldn’t even enter Steve’s cell through fear.

When the Manager arrived on scene, he could not stay long as he had to run about the prison reorganising the few members of staff they had. In cross examination, he accepted that Steve’s health was not put before the security of the prison.

Eventually CPR started, but there was no access to a defibrillator the Court heard, not even an aspirin.

Brownhill cross examined the staff in the control room. There should have been two staff there, there was only one. There was complete confusion about who was to call an ambulance. From the moment that Steve was found unresponsive, it took an hour to call an ambulance.

In Court, Dr Armitage, a Doctor instructed by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman, accepted Brownhill’s suggestion that Steve had received healthcare below the standard he would have received in the community. And, he agreed that the chances of survival are much greater for persons when an ambulance attends promptly.

The Coroner concluded that Steve died of natural causes and received sub optimal health care.

Charlotte Measures, from Anthony Collins solicitors who instructed Brownhill, said: “Prisoners are entitled to exactly the same standard of healthcare as is available in the community but there were serious failings in this case.”

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Anthony Collins solicitors and Mr Brownhill will now review the case in light of the Coroner’s findings.

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