Published on December 03 2014

The Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland today published an investigation report into the death of a prisoner, Geoffrey Singleton, who died by hanging on 6th May 2013 in Maghaberry Prison, aged 42.

The report indicates that Mr Singleton had a lengthy history of abusing drugs, and had spent 
a considerable amount of time in prison since 1993. His family cared about him, and he 
wanted to abstain from drugs, but was unable to maintain his abstinence efforts or comply 
with the requirements of his licence in the community.  

Mr Singleton was committed to prison following a breach of his licence conditions. The next 
day he disclosed that he had swallowed a package of heroin. He was immediately taken to 
hospital, but discharged himself against advice and returned to Maghaberry.  

The following day, a nurse who was bringing medication for Mr Singleton found him hanging 
in his cell. After his death the autopsy revealed that, with the exception of cannabis which 
could have been taken before he was returned to prison, all of the drugs found in 
Mr Singleton’s system were legitimately prescribed medication. 

The Ombudsman’s clinical reviewer did not criticise Mr Singleton’s medical care during 
previous periods in prison; and said that appropriate referrals had been made to community 
addiction services to support him after release. Mr Singleton had no history of serious self- 
harm in prison, and nobody in Maghaberry expected him to die by hanging.  

Nonetheless this investigation has identified gaps in aspects of his care that could have 
implications for the future. Therefore the report makes twenty recommendations for 
improvement, four of which have previously been made to the Prison Service and South 
Eastern Health & Social Care Trust, and accepted by them. The NIPS and SEHSCT have 
again accepted the recommendations of this report.  

Prisoner Ombudsman Tom McGonigle, in expressing sympathy to the next of kin, said 
“While nobody could have anticipated that Mr Singleton would die by hanging in prison, the 
circumstances surrounding his admission to hospital, discharge and subsequent care raise concerns. 
It is also concerning that my office finds it necessary to repeat recommendations which were 
previously accepted by both the NIPS and SEHSCT. I have therefore raised these concerns directly 
with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.”  

Media contacts: 
McCann Public Relations, Telephone: 02890 666322 
Maria McCann: 07802934246 or Natalie Mackin: 07974935855

Notes to editors: 
1.  The Prisoner Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference require the Office to investigate all 
deaths in prison custody since September 2005. See for further information. 

2.  In line with the Prisoner Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference a copy of this report has also 
been sent to the Coroners Service for Northern Ireland. 
3. Publication of Reports 
The Prisoner Ombudsman strives to ensure that readers can establish the facts of the case, 
and that all necessary information is shared in the public interest. This is balanced against 
our legal obligations in respect of data protection and privacy, and we therefore take careful 
account of next of kin views when considering publication.  In this case Mr Singleton’s next 
of kin were content that all the investigation details should be made public.  
4. Mr Singleton’s next of kin do not wish to respond to media enquiries and have requested 
that their privacy be respected.  Solicitor John Mackin (028 3833 4443) is available to 
comment on their behalf.