Prison officers sentenced over death in custody case

29 September 2013

Shaun Percy and his wife Lisa, were both working at HMP Preston on the 21st April 2011.  That night Christopher Oldham who was on remand faces charges of perverting the course of justice was found hanged in his cell. 

Lisa Percy was the senior officer on the night of Mr Oldham's death.  Shaun Percy had failed to carry out mandatory cell checks on vulnerable prisoners who were assessed as feeling suicidal.  He falsely recorded that he had carried out the checks and then his wife subsequently made false entries on the prison log to try and cover up for his omissions. 

Mr and Mrs Percy pleaded guilty at Preston Crown Court, Sean Percy admitting misconduct in a public office and Lisa Percy pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice. 

Neil Dalton of the Crown Prosecution Service said Shaun and Lisa Percy, who worked alongside each other as wardens at HMP Preston, had over 20 years experience in the prison service but wilfully neglected to carry out the duties required of them.  Shaun Percy was personally responsible for monitoring at-risk prisoners, but deliberately failed to carry out the necessary checks.  Indeed, Christopher Oldham had died almost 3 hours before Shaun Percy checked on him.  Percy's office was just feet away from the cell, but CCTV shows that he checked on Christopher just twice that night.  CCTV also shows that Percy completed his 'pegging', which means he passed Christopher's cell every half an hour as required, but failed to look inside.  Instead Percy fabricated entries on the log, claiming that Christopher was lying on his bed watching television and even recorded Christopher telling him he was 'OK'.  When Lisa Percy was notified of the death, she tried to cover up her husband's failings by entering false entries on the prison log and forging her husband's signature next to them.  Prison officers owe an important duty of care towards their prisoners and checks exist for a reason.  This has been a sad and distressing case and I would like to take this opportunity to express my condolences to Christopher's family".

Mr and Mrs Percy both received sentences of 12 months imprisonment suspended for 2 years and were ordered to perform 200 hours of unpaid work in the community as a condition of that sentence.  This means that they will not have to serve a prison sentence provided they carry out the unpaid work as ordered to the satisfaction of the Probation Service and that they do not commit any further offences within the 2 years suspension period.  Should they breach the order in anyway, they would be returned back to Preston Crown Court for consideration as to whether all or part of their 12 month sentence of imprisonment should be activated and if they had committed any further offences they would of course stand to be sentenced for those new offences as well.

It has not been a particularly been a good year for the prison service.  In June Zanib Khan received a 12 month sentence of imprisonment having admitted exchanging inappropriate letters and telephone calls with four serving prisoners.

In July 2012, two prison officers Jodie Pugh and Danielle Ofkants both received sentences of imprisonment for offences of wilful misconduct in a public office, having engaged in inappropriate relationships with inmates at HMP Hewell.

Under the Prison Rules, staff are required to notify the Prison Service of any contact with a serving prisoner outside of the officer's employment.