Prison officers tell inquest they would have put man in padded cell if risk level was clear

Prison officers have told an inquest that they would have placed a prisoner, deemed by medical staff in another prison to be at “unprecedented” risk of suicide, in a padded cell had they known the level of risk.

Prison officers tell inquest they would have put man in padded cell if risk level was clear

The Cork Prison officers made their comments during the second day of an inquest yesterday into the death of Roy O’Driscoll, 25, from Summerhill, Mallow, Co Cork, in a cell in Cork Prison on May 10, 2013.

Mr O’Driscoll had been serving a seven-year sentence for assault, and was transferred from Portlaoise Prison to Cork on May 1.

He was classed by medical staff in Portlaoise as at an “unprecedented” risk of suicide just days beforehand. Mr O’Driscoll was transferred without their knowledge. He was found unresponsive in his cell in Cork Prison’s D-unit on May 10, 2013, and was pronounced dead a short time later.

The inquest previously heard that Dr George O’Mahony GP assessed him the day after his arrival in Cork Prison and, amid concerns for his mental health, directed he be placed in one of D-unit’s three medical observation cells. Prisoners in these cells get a daily GP visit and twice daily nursing visits. They also have access to a prison-issue bedsheet and towel.

Following visits from consultant psychiatrist, Dr Eugene Moran, over the following days it was determined that Mr O’Driscoll should remain in this cell for continuing observation. But D-unit prison officers told Cork City Coroner’s Court yesterday that the only information they had about Mr O’Driscoll’s condition was that he was under special observation.

Class officer Brendan Conroy said he knew the prisoner was involved in a fight in Portlaoise before his transfer.

He said Mr O’Driscoll displayed all the signs of an inmate finding it hard to adjust to prison life and do his time.

“There was no indication the man was highly suicidal. Had we known, we wouldn’t have had him in a cell with bedding and a suspension point. Had we known he was suicidal, he wouldn’t have been in that cell. I have replayed this in my mind so many times — what did I miss?” he said.

Fellow prison officer, David Keogh, said: “If there was a high risk, he wouldn’t have been in that cell.”

Another officer, Liam Sweeney, said the only thing he knew about Mr O’Driscoll was that he was on medical observation, and vulnerable. They all said there was nothing unusual about Mr O’Driscoll on the day of his death.

Mr Sweeney said he checked Mr O’Driscoll through the cell door hatch at 2pm and saw him sitting on the bed and everything seemed normal. Mr Conroy said he looked through the hatch at 2.09pm and saw the prisoner sitting on his bed.

But by 2.25pm, officer David Keogh, raised the alarm when Mr O’Driscoll was found lying unresponsive in his cell .

Prison staff administered CPR for 18 minutes but Mr O’Driscoll did not respond.

Cork Prison’s chief nursing officer at the time, Joe Faulkner, said he made the decision to cease resuscitation efforts before paramedics arrived.

“I made the decision to stop CPR based on my own clinical experience,” he said.

The inquest has been adjourned until June at which point former Cork Prison governor, Jim Collins, is due to give evidence.

More in this section