18-year-old Charlie Todd was found dead in his prison cell at HMP Durham in September 2019, having hung himself while he awaited sentencing for burglary and motoring offences. He had been placed in isolation shortly before his death.
Ison Harrison’s Ruth Bundey represented the family of Charlie Todd at the Inquest into his death in Durham in September 2021.
Charlie Todd was a “loyal” and “happy-go-lucky” teenager, but he also had a history of self-harm and depression. This was known to prison staff when he was admitted to HMP Durham in September 2019 to await sentencing for a series of offences.
The Inquest heard that Charlie had been described as “smiley” and “happy” by prison staff when he was put into an isolation unit on the morning of his death. He had been found with illegal drugs in his possession, but claimed these belonged to another inmate.
Suicide and self-harm procedures at the prison dictated that inmates should have a face-to-face assessment before being put into a Segregation & Care Unit (SACU), and should then be monitored by patrol staff every hour thereafter. Charlie had no such assessment and was then not checked by staff at 3pm, and at 4pm he was found unresponsive in his cell having ligatured himself. This was just six hours after he had been admitted to the SACU.
The Inquest heard that it was a commonly-held belief of inmates within HMP Durham that self-harm was a way to avoid segregation, and be returned to the wing.
The Inquest concluded that Charlie died through ‘misadventure’. In other words, he did not intend to kill himself.
Charlie’s mother, Emma Todd, believed that Charlie should not have been left alone in the SACU. She is now active with Inquest, the national organisation, to seek positive changes for vulnerable prisoners.
The Coroner’s Report asked HMP Durham to make changes to “prevent further deaths” and address the concerns raised in the Inquest. It was recorded that HMP Durham had seen 42 deaths since 2015, 17 of which were self-inflicted. The prison replied within 56 days to say two extra members of staff within SACU had been taken on. There are still concerns that these measures are insufficient.