Prisoner Ombudsman Publishes Report into the Death of Mr Geoffrey Ellison

Published on November 09 2016

A report of the Prisoner Ombudsman’s investigation into the death of Mr Geoffrey Ellison in Magilligan Prison was published today.

Mr Ellison was found hanging in his cell on 28th March 2015, nine weeks before he was due for release.

During his time in custody Mr Ellison did not present as someone who was contemplating suicide. He had appeared content in Magilligan, got along well with staff and other prisoners and was actively planning to return home to England after release. He lived in a low supervision area and worked as an orderly.

However shortly before his death he received an upsetting letter from home. One implication of this letter was that Mr Ellison might have had difficulty obtaining an address following release. Although that concern was quickly dispelled, other important aspects of his future remained uncertain. He tried to address them by phone but was unable to do so.

Two officers on his landing did not have undue concerns for Mr Ellison as they thought his main anxiety about obtaining an address had been resolved.

While our clinical reviewer felt Mr Ellison’s death was predictable, she concluded that it could not be determined with any certainty that it could have been prevented.

This report makes nine recommendations for improvement, all of which have been accepted. Two recommendations were previously made to, and accepted by the SEHSCT and NIPS – Recommendation 1 in March 2014 and Recommendation 9 in November 2014.

Prisoner Ombudsman Tom McGonigle said “Mr Ellison was not believed to be at risk in terms of suicide and his death came as a shock to everyone who knew him at Magilligan. Suicidal ideation that had been apparent before he came into custody was not evident during this prison sentence. I extend my sympathy to his next of kin for their sad loss.”

Media contact

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. For further information see Terms of Reference for Investigation of deaths in prison custody.

2. The Ombudsman aims to provide the facts of the case and publish all material that is necessary to serve the public interest. This is balanced against legal obligations in respect of data protection and privacy for everyone concerned, and their views are therefore taken into account when publication is being considered. Mr Ellison’s family indicated they are content for the full findings of this investigation to be published.