The Leeds prisoner 'treated worse than a dog'

A VULNERABLE model prisoner whose treatment in Armley jail was described as "monstrous" killed himself in his cell.

The man, a remand prisoner with no criminal record, was treated 'worse than a dog' by prison staff in the days before his death it was alleged at an inquest.

A jury ruled that systemic failures, a culture of complacency and lack of training were among serious failings leading up to Mohammed Mudhir's death.

The 25-year-old, from Cookridge, hanged himself from a bunk bed in his cell on a segregation unit where staff failed to note his serious mental breakdown.

The hearing was played distressing CCTV footage in which Mr Mudhir could be seen drinking out of the toilet, praying incessantly and pacing his cell in circles.

During 18 hours in isolation his cell door was opened just once, when an officer spoke to him for less than 90 seconds.

After the hearing West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff said he would ask the Chief Inspector of Prisons to recommend all staff at the jail – including those at governor grade – undergo retraining.

Mr Mudhir's mother, Ghada Darwood, said: "I am speechless. Despite the unexpected death of my son he still lives in the consciousness of those who knew him.

Ruthless

"The people who had care of Mohammed were monstrous and ruthless and had no sense of humanity or dignity."

The jury's narrative verdict states that a catalogue of serious failings contributed to his death, in August 2005, while the balance of his mind was disturbed.

It states he was failed significantly in relation to his care in custody due to poor communication between staff, inadequate mental health assessments and a lack of proper staff training.

Evidence was heard about the severe deterioration in Mr Mudhir's mental health in the five days prior to his death.

Iraqi-born Mr Mudhir had been jailed for failing to attend court in relation to an assault allegation after he flew out to the Middle East to visit family.

He had been described as a model prisoner but began to exhibit symptoms of mental illness and self harm, including lacerations to his wrists and talking incomprehensibly

The jury also found a full medical assessment was not undertaken for reasons which were unacceptable.

Medical staff who were supposed to assess him admitted they did not know of the prison service orders which set out their duties and provided guidance.

Medical records, which documented his history of depression, were not checked.

The segregation unit was staffed by untrained auxiliary officers at night.

One night officer said she had seen other prisoners drinking from the toilet but when she brought it to the attention of senior managers no action was taken.

Day staff did not give Mohammed any water or ask him why he had been drinking out of the toilet overnight.

A deputy governor agreed with the suggestion that no one would treat a dog the way Mr Mudhir had been dealt with.

Mr Mudhir's brother, Musab Mudhir, told the YEP "We have waited three-and-and-a-half years to find out what happened to my brother.

Shocking

"The evidence that we have heard over the last six weeks has been shocking. We are appalled that prison officers should have treated Mohammed with no respect, decency or common humanity. Despite the fact that Mohammed was seen drinking out of the toilet, nobody spoke to him, provided him with a drink, inquired of his welfare or sought medical assistance."

Kate Maynard, solicitor for the family, said: "The CCTV film enabled us to see how appallingly Mohammed was treated.

"If staff had bothered to engage with Mohammed, conduct their observations properly, or communicate with each other about what they saw, Mohammed's death may have been avoided."

A Prison Service spokesman said: "Every death in custody is a tragedy and our sympathies are with Mohammed's family. Ministers, the Ministry of Justice and the National Offenders Management Service (NOMS) are completely committed to reducing the number of such tragic incidents.

"NOMS will be carefully considering the verdict to consider the lessons that can be learned from Mohammed's death."

'The last thing he did as a free man'

SPORTS science student Mohammed Mudhir was arrested and jailed in June 2005 after he failed to attend court over an assault allegation.

Mr Mudhir's brother, Musab, said a charge against him stemmed from an accusation a teenage girl made against him after he was confronted by a youths on a bus as he made his way home from Leeds Metropolitan University.

Musab said: "I know my brother would never have done what he was accused of but he kept having to go to court only to have his case adjourned.

Promised

"He had promised family in Iraq that he would go see them but kept having to put it off. After it was put off for a third time he decided to make the trip."

On his return to Leeds his family told him that the police had been looking for him as they had a warrant for his arrest for failing to attend court.

Musab said: "Mohammed still didn't think there was a problem. He was still wearing his slippers when I drove him to Weetwood police station. That was the last thing he did as a free man. I still can't believe that two-and-a-half months later he was dead after being kept like a dog in a kennel."