A prison governor was summoned to an inquest into the death of an inmate to explain why evidence had not been disclosed to the coroner.
HMP Cardiff Governor Richard Booty appeared in Cardiff Coroner’s Court today at the inquest of Andrew Hawkins, 38, who was found hanged in his cell on December 18 last year.
He was asked why Coroner Mary Hassell had not been informed of prisoner Mitchell Vasello, who said he heard a prison officer tell Mr Hawkins he had no human rights.
Ms Hassell told Mr Booty the failure to disclose Mr Vasello’s evidence could lead the jury to think there had been a cover up.
She said: “The very obvious inference is that the prison are trying to cover up and that is for the jury to decide.”
A day earlier, on Wednesday, former prisoner Samuel Hillerby told the hearing a prison officer, alleged to be Phillip Roberts, had told Mr Hawkins: “Get your head down. You have no f****** human rights”.
Yesterday, a late addition to the inquest saw prisoner Mitchell Vasello give evidence saying he was “100%” sure that Mr Roberts made these comments.
Mr Vasello was involved in a Prison and Probation Ombudsman report and a separate internal investigation, but Cardiff Coroner Mary Hassell was not told until Wednesday.
In the absence of the jury, Ms Hassell said it “must have been abundantly clear” Mr Vasello’s evidence would be relevant.
Mr Booty replied: “We took legal advice on this… and the advice was that the statement was not disclosed.”
At the hearing, Prison guard Phillip Roberts denied telling Mr Hawkins he had no human rights.
The jury returned a narrative verdict. They said Mr Hawkins took his own life by hanging as a “direct result” of prison staff failing to properly assess his mental health, drug issues and vulnerability and the conversation with the prison officer the previous night”.
They said: “We are unclear as to the question raised by Mr Hawkins but are certain the prison officer’s response was: “You have no f****** human rights”.
“This inappropriate response was a catalyst for Mr Hawkins to take his own life.”
Outside court, Mr Hawkins’ sister Amanda Rees, from Barry, said: “I feel very disappointed. I feel like, as a family, we have been let down.”
“I feel that they hid vital evidence.”