Growing concern about social distancing requirements in prisons after 84-year-old prisoner dies at Littlehey

84-year-old prisoner dies at Littlehey

84-year-old prisoner dies at Littlehey - Credit: Archant

An elderly inmate at Littlehey prison near St Neots is believed to be the first in Britain to die after contracting the coronavirus.

The 84-year-old is understood to have died in hospital on Sunday after becoming ill and the Prison Service has said that an independent investigation would be carried out.

The man, who has not been officially named, was said to have underlying health problems.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “An 84-year-old prisoner at HMP Littlehey died in hospital on March 22. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

“As with all deaths in custody, there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.”

Littlehey can hold more than 1,200 prisoners serving sentences for sex offences and nearly half of them are aged 50 or over.

A report, published by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in December, said 30 prisoners had died in custody since its previous report in 2015, with the older age range of the inmates being considered a contributory factor.

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At the time of the man’s death there were 19 prisoners with coronavirus at 10 jails across the country, with growing concern about the potential for the disease to spread among inmates and staff who could not follow recommendations to stay two metres apart.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “We have strong and flexible plans in place to keep all staff and prisoners as safe as possible, and are issuing secure phone handsets to help offenders keep in contact with their families.”

The Littlehey report said the prison had a “wide range of good and responsive primary care clinics and services” for inmates and described support for people with long-term health problems as “impressive”.

Prisoners were described as being “generally positive” about health services.

The report said: “The prison proactively responded to the needs of the large population of prisoners aged over 50.”

Both the hospital trust which runs Hinchingbrooke and Littlehey have brought in new rules restricting the number of visitors in a bid to reduce the spread of the disease.

Hinchingbrooke has introduced a restriction on all visitors, apart from those seeing end of life patients, the delivery suite where just the birthing partner is allowed and paediatrics where one parent or carer can visit.