Dog walker finds prison’s ‘suicide’ log book in field

Dog walker finds prison’s ‘suicide’ log book in field

The log book, found by Scott Harvey from Wilmslow, was found on farmland close to the secure prison, and lists dozens of emergency incidents over six years

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Scott Harvey, 28, from Wilmslow , discovered what appears to be a prison log book and data backup tape from Styal Prison whilst out walking his dog (Image: Joel Goodman)

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An investigation has been launched after a confidential document listing dozens of emergency incidents at a women’s prison was found in a field by a dog walker.

The log book document records cases of prisoners found with ligatures around their necks and incidents of self-harm at Styal Prison over six years.

It was found on farmland a stone’s throw away from the secure prison in Wilmslow, which was heavily criticised after a spate of suicides in 2003.

The M.E.N. contacted the Ministry of Justice to alert officials about the book’s discovery and an urgent Prison Service investigation has now been launched.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, which investigates data breaches, is also poised to launch a probe into how and why the journal was in the field. Action could be taken against the prison as a result.

The handwritten blue notebook, stamped with a Her Majesty’s Stationary Office logo, has ‘Sealed Pack Book’ written on the cover.  The 40-page journal was compiled by staff between 1999 and 2005.

No prisoners’ names are recorded, but names of prison staff and locations inside the prison are referred to.

Styal prison in Cheshire

Entries include ‘inmate hanging in cell’ and ‘ligature around inmate’s neck’.

A total of 24 reported self-harm incidents with one, on Christmas Eve 2003, stating ‘serious self harm, plastic bag’, are recorded. There are 11 separate entries for self-harm incidents during March 2001 alone.

The book details more than 50 incidents involving a ligature and five entries relate to ‘cell entry, ligature removed’.

Another five entries concern ‘ligature around the neck’ and there are two separate references to hanging. References about epileptic fits and several reports of ‘medical emergencies’ also feature. The final entry is made on August 13, 2005. book was found by Scott Harvey, 28, from Wilmslow, who contacted the M.E.N. Scott, who said he would hand it over to the authorities, said: “I was walking the dog in one of the fields and it was just there, lying on the grass. It is in pretty good condition. There are always kids playing around the area and it is not something that a child should read. It’s far from a story book.

“The book details incidents and where they happened in the prison. It is all confidential. I was surprised how many incidents involving self-harm and ligatures were recorded.”

Scott Harvey and one of his huskies (Image: Joel Goodman)

The women’s prison, a former orphanage in Styal village, has previously been at the centre of concern surrounding suicide levels and cases of self-harm. A spate of suicides in 2003/2004 sparked calls for an independent enquiry. Jail bosses brought in a range of reforms after prison inspectors criticised its procedures for dealing with vulnerable prisoners, in particular new arrivals.

The prison was praised last year by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons for its improving conditions. A Prison Service spokesman said: “We take the security of information very seriously. We are investigating an incident of historic data being found by a member of the public.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office described the book’s contents as sensitive and personal. A spokesman added: “We will be making enquiries into this incident before deciding whether action, if any, is required.”

Andrew Neilson, campaigns director at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the data loss was ‘regrettable’.  He said: “It does emphasise the difficulties faced by women in prison and they still face these problems years after an inquiry took place into women’s prisons.”

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