Prison failings highlighted at inquest into death of Bulwell man after smoking mamba

Inadequate staffing levels and the prevalence of drugs at Nottingham Prison were highlighted at the inquest into the death of a Bulwell man.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 2:03 pm
Anthony Solomon, who died after smoking mamba at Nottingham Prison.
Anthony Solomon, who died after smoking mamba at Nottingham Prison.

Dad Anthony Solomon, 38, of Lawton Drive, was found unconscious on the floor of his cell at lunchtime on September 27, 2017 after he had been smoking mamba.

The inquest heard that mamba was readily available at the prison, and that Mr Solomon had been seen under the influence of the drug several times during the four months he was there.

But no action had been taken, and on the day of his death, only one officer was on duty on his prison wing to supervise up to 220 prisoners. The officer had only been in the job for a few weeks and had to perform a number of essential tasks, such as monitoring for suicide and self-harm.

When Mr Solomon’s cell mate rang the emergency cell bell, it took 40 minutes for the officer to attend, when the normal requirement was that they answered within five minutes.

The inquest jury concluded that Mr Solomon’s death was caused by the toxic effects of synthetic cannabinoids, of which mamba is one.

Delivering a narrative verdict, the jury said he was denied medical attention because of a delay in answering his cell bell.

The care he eventually received was “appropriate”, and it was inconclusive whether his life would have been saved had it come earlier.

After the hearing, solicitor Jo Eggleton, of the law firm representing Mr Solomon’s family, said: “Anthony’s death was preventable.

“It is vital that those in the care of the prison can summon and receive help in an emergency. There is little point in instructing staff to respond to cell bells within five minutes if they can’t do so.

“Steps need to be taken in this and other prisons, so that further lives are not lost.”

Leanne Blakey, Mr Solomon’s partner, said: “I am aghast at the level of drugs in Nottingham Prison at the time. Staff knew what was going on.”

Natasha Thompson, caseworker for lawyers, was also scathing in her criticism. She said: “Serious failures resulted in Anthony being left to deteriorate when he was in need of urgent medical attention,

“Responsibility for his death rests with complacency and indifference to enacting potentially lifesaving recommendations.”

The jury heard that Mr Solomon’s death was the third of five inside a month at the prison at the time. Drug levels were such that some officers were hospitalised with the effects of fumes they encountered on entering cells.

Improvements had since been put in place. Assistant Coroner Tanyka Rawden said the longest response time to cell bells was now 20 minutes, while staffing levels had been increased and body-scanning equipment introduced to combat the use of drugs.