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Deaf prisoner was found dead in his Pentonville cell after referral ‘failing’

Inquest is told how jail officer was unaware of ‘vulnerable’ 32-year-old’s disability

18 January, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Tyrone Givans, who died on February 26 last year, was found in his cell with a ligature made out of bed sheets around his neck

A PRISON officer in charge of looking after disabled inmates was not informed that a “profoundly” deaf man without his hearing aids was being held at Pentonville prison, an inquest heard this week.

Tyrone Givans, 32, was found dead in his cell with a ligature made out of bed sheets around his neck on February 26 last year.

A jury at St Pancras Coroner’s Court is expected to come to a conclusion about the circumstances of his death next Thursday.

Angela Augustin, Mr Givans’ mother, in a statement read out in court, highlighted how the father-of-one was left feeling “vulnerable” without his hearing aids in the Caledonian Road prison.

She said she and Mr Givans’ aunt had “raised concerns” to prison officers because “he wasn’t happy in his wing, there was lots of drugs”.

Mr Givans had been bullied by his fellow inmates and a prison officer had to retrieve his shoes for him, the court heard.

Ms Augustin said: “He didn’t intend to take his own life. He was desperate and it was a cry for help. If he got the help, he could have got back on track.”

She described her son as a “beautiful spirit and beautiful soul” who had a “very close” relationship with his eight-year-old daughter.

“He was profoundly deaf from birth and had a hearing aid in both ears,” she said.

Taking to the stand to further explain her son’s disability, Ms Augustin said: “I want people to understand, Tyrone not having his hearing aids is like a visually impaired person not having a guide dog or someone who can’t walk not having a wheelchair. He really struggled.”

She added that living without hearing aids means “you’re by yourself with just your inner thoughts”.

Mr Givans had received a hearing aid for one ear after two weeks in prison when his mother retrieved it from his ex-girlfriend’s house through a relative.

The “equalities and foreign national officer” at the prison told the court he “was not informed” about Mr Givans’ disability by his colleagues.

During cross-examination by Adam Wagner, the barrister representing Mr Givans’ family, it was revealed that the prison officer had previously labelled the lack of referral a “massive failing” to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

He admitted “I do feel I should have been made aware” about Mr Givans and that the equality policy of the prison “wasn’t quite achieved” with his treatment.

He also revealed that there had “recently” been a “quite large” increase in referrals to him from healthcare staff at the prison employed by Care UK when assessing new prisoners.

Mr Wagner also revealed on Monday that Mr Givans had two prisoner references “causing him issues with his records and ID card”.

The jury heard from Ali Khan who had shared a cell with Mr Givans for just under a month in the prison’s F wing – the detox wing – before discovering him hanging from the top bunk after returning from court.

Mr Khan said: “He was very scared. He was scared about the whole environment. He was watching TV all night. He didn’t sleep all night. For the first two weeks he didn’t get out from the cell. Pentonville is full of drugs, I think he was on Spice.”

Mr Khan described how smoking Spice “makes you scared and paranoid”. He said Spice, a Class B psychoactive drug, was sprayed onto sheets of paper and smuggled into the prison.

Another prison officer who had responded to Mr Givans’ cell bell less than two hours before his death, said: “Drugs are easy to obtain throughout the prison service.”

The female officer said she spoke to Mr Givans about his concerns over his ID card through a hatch in his door after being summoned by the bell.

She said he was able to “completely understand what I was saying” when she was “talking very slowly”.

Mr Givans was on remand in the prison after breaching a restraining order and being charged with assault. He had presented himself to Islington Police station.

The case continues.

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