Terminally ill sex offender's early release bid never submitted due to HMP Wakefield delays - ombudsman's report

A terminally ill sex offender died in a Wakefield jail without his request for compassionate release ever being submitted, the prisons ombudsman has found.

By Georgina Morris
Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 5:00 pm

Peter Tillotson, 61, was serving a 22-year prison sentence for sex offences at HMP Wakefield when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2019.

A report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, which investigates all prison deaths, said palliative radiotherapy to control the cancer was initially considered but Mr Tillotson became too unwell to undergo treatment.

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Peter Tillotson was serving a 22-year sentence at HMP Wakefield when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Picture: Gareth Copley/PA Wire

In May, he had asked to be released early from prison on compassionate grounds but the application had still not been completed before his death on July 23.

The report notes: "The investigator found that there were delays processing Mr Tillotson’s request for early release on compassionate grounds and that no one seemed to have overall responsibility for its progress."

It details confusion about who should have been sent the application in the first place as well as failures to follow up emails relating to the application.

The report says: "We are concerned that despite staff starting a compassionate release application for Mr Tillotson, it was never completed. After 1 July, no one took any action on the application and it was not submitted before Mr Tillotson died.

"We accept that human errors do happen but consider that if a single individual had had responsibility for the application process, the delays may have been noticed and investigated sooner."

An independent clinical reviewer was also commissioned by NHS England to look back at the care Mr Tillotson had received while held at the Category A prison.

She concluded the clinical care was equivalent to what could have been expected in the community but made two recommendations.

The recommendations were that the Head of Healthcare should ensure prison staff were aware of the need to appropriately escalate any clinical concerns and ensure staff consider transferring patients to the inpatient facility if they believe there is a clinical need.

The ombudsman also recommended that the Governor and the Head of Healthcare should ensure applications for compassionate release were progressed in a timely manner and submitted as promptly as possible.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Since Mr Tillotson’s death, HMP Wakefield now holds weekly meetings to make sure compassionate leave requests are being dealt with promptly and appropriately.”