Prisoner in HMP Styal ‘give birth to dead child in toilet’

A woman gave birth to a stillborn child in a prison toilet under “shocking circumstances” after a nurse mistook her for menstrual pain, a Sentinel investigation has found.

Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) Sue McAllister said staff made a “serious error of judgement” when they did not visit an inmate or assess him properly after reporting he was bleeding and in pain – unfairly decided she was having painful periods.

The mother, Louise Powell, said she “cannot forgive” the prison for what happened.

According to a report published on Tuesday, the 30-year-old did not know that she was pregnant and could not believe that she could be.

Fellow inmates and staff of HMP Styles “had no doubt” this was the case until the baby was born prematurely – possibly between 27 and 31 weeks – in her mother’s cell at Cheshire Prison in June 2020. Block toilet.

The findings come just months after a damning report showed how a newborn baby died after a teenage girl gave birth alone at HMP Bronzefield in Middlesex, Europe’s largest women’s prison, despite calling on staff for help. happened.

In this report, Ms McAllister said the mother suffered a “horrific, traumatic and traumatic experience” and described the case as “deeply sad and disturbing”.

Prison staff called the duty nurse three times to express concern about the prisoner for more than two hours, but without visiting or properly assessing him, “wrongly concluded that he was bleeding and The painful period resulted in severe abdominal pain”.

The report said: “Whatever the cause, it is not acceptable that someone has unexplained acute pain for several hours without proper evaluation or consideration of pain relief.”

Ms McAllister is unable to say whether the child could have survived had her mother been taken to hospital. But her report said: “We believe that this will need to be determined by the court on the basis of expert evidence commissioned for this purpose.”

Satisfied that prison staff did not leave any “obvious indications” that she was pregnant during the three-and-a-half months behind bars, having “missed the opportunity” to recognize that she had to undergo an urgent clinical trial hours earlier. Attention was required. Gave birth, Ms McAllister said.

In a statement to BBC Newsnight, Powell said: “The pain of Brooke’s death will never leave me. I can’t forgive the prison for leaving me when I was calling for help and I thought I was dying I was having a medical emergency and I was let go. Instead of that, immediate help. I want justice for Brooke so that no other woman has to go through this horror in jail.”

A damning report last year also revealed how a newborn baby died after a teenage girl gave birth alone at HMP Bronzefield in Middlesex, Europe’s largest women’s prison, despite calling on staff for help.

Kate Paradine, chief executive of the Women in Prison charity, said the latest findings were “another example of the catastrophic failure of health care in prisons” and claimed prisons “are not safe for women”.

Prisons Minister Victoria Atkins said: “The tragic events described in this report should never happen to any woman or child, and my deepest sympathies rest with the mother. We have already implemented the report’s recommendations and are in custody. Significant improvements have been made in the care received by pregnant women.

“We are also looking at how we can better screen for pregnancy in prisons so that no woman falls through the cracks. But there is clearly a lot to do to ensure that pregnant mothers in prison are treated equally in the community.” Get support – something I will continue to prioritize.”

The NHS said it had taken “prompt action” so “pregnancy tests are offered to all women upon arrival” and that staff are being trained to detect early signs of labor and “know that What to do in case of unexpected birth”. ”- measures which were one of the recommendations made in the report.

The Spectrum Community Health CIC, which runs health services in the prison, accepted the report’s findings. A spokesman said it is “fully committed to ensuring that lessons are learned and recommendations in the report are accepted and that action is taken following this tragic incident”.

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