Health experts from the prisons inspectorate are set to visit a disabled man whose life is at risk after being denied – his family say – the 24-hour care he needs for a serious health condition.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has also agreed to investigate the case of Daniel Roque Hall, who was sentenced to three years in prison in June.
Roque Hall was sent to Wormwood Scrubs prison, but his family and supporters believe he received nothing there but basic care. He is a full-time wheelchair-user and at home has a 24-hour care package.
He experiences pain and muscle spasms, fatigue, heart problems, diabetes, and difficulty with speech and swallowing, as a result of the life-limiting condition Friedreich’s ataxia (FA).
He usually carries out exercises – with the aid of a support worker – that help him maintain muscle strength, ease his pain, and prevent further deterioration to his health.
But he has apparently been denied access to any exercise equipment in the prison hospital wing, where he was being kept.
Two weeks ago, his condition deteriorated, and after lengthy delays, say his family, he was admitted to London’s University College Hospital with heart problems (tachycardia, a heart rate disorder).
When his mother, Anne Hall, was finally told of his transfer to hospital, she found him “emaciated, barely able to speak and barely able to recognise me”.
This week she said: “He did not nearly die because of an unavoidable deterioration in his condition… but because his signs and symptoms were ignored and denied by Wormwood Scrubs to him, to me and to others, over a considerable period time of time.
“The damage done to him physically and mentally is enormous and the consequences for the shortening of his already shortened life expectancy and quality of life are undeniable.”
Now HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) has agreed to send its own health inspectors to check on Roque Hall’s health if and when he returns to prison, as long as he gives his permission.
An HMIP spokeswoman said: “We have no powers to intervene or investigate individual cases.
“However, we have been made aware of the concerns about Mr Roque Hall and have asked for information about his situation.
“The prison have said that with his consent they are happy to provide information. If he is returned to the prison we will ask his permission for healthcare inspectors to visit him.”
Mark Hammond, chief executive of the EHRC, has also responded to concerns about the case, which were raised by the disabled campaigner John Knight.
Hammond told Knight in a letter on 29 August that the EHRC’s human rights review earlier this year “noted… that some prisons did not meet the health needs of certain prisoners through the lack of identification of their disabilities, lack of or delay in treatment and poorly coordinated care plans”, which he said “raises concerns about breaches of human rights obligations”.
He added: “Due to the seriousness of the issues you have raised I have referred your emails to the Commission’s Legal Directorate.”
He said EHRC lawyers would be writing to the prison to “make enquiries about the steps it is taking to meet Mr Hall’s needs, and any other prisoners in a similar situation, and what it is doing to ensure that all disabled prisoners will receive the necessary care in the future”.
An EHRC spokeswoman told Disability News Service that its legal team was “still considering the issues raised” but that it would “not be making any comments at this stage”.
Roque Hall, from north London, was stopped by UK Border Force officers at Heathrow airport last November with almost three kilogrammes of cocaine hidden in his wheelchair.
The charity Ataxia UK has said that the symptoms of his condition “require round-the-clock support to sustain safety and quality of life”, and that “without these services in place, health and wellbeing – both physical and emotional – will be considerably compromised as time passes”.
The Prison Service has refused to comment on the case, even if Roque Hall gives permission for his details to be shared with the media.
5 September 2012