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Damning report published into death of baby born to teenager in prison cell

PUBLISHED

A catalogue of failures among prison and health professionals has been highlighted in an investigation report into the death of a teenager’s baby after she gave birth alone in her cell at the largest women’s prison in Europe.

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman published the devastating report into the events in September 2019 at HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, Middlesex on Wednesday. The case was first revealed by the Guardian and the baby’s death triggered 11 separate inquiries.

The report details a disturbing series of events that culminated with the young woman, who cannot be named, being in “constant pain” on the night of 26 September and eventually passing out while giving birth.

According to the report the teenager "appeared to have been regarded as difficult and having a ‘bad attitude’ rather than as a vulnerable 18-year-old, frightened that her baby would be taken away”. Failings included:

  • There was confusion among different health professionals about her due date.
  • The day before her baby was born she told a prison nurse she would kill herself or someone else if the baby was taken away from her, but this information was not adequately shared.
  • On 26 September she was put on extended observation, meaning she should have been regularly checked but this did not happen. She rang the bell twice at 8.07pm and 8.32pm that day. A call was connected then immediately disconnected at 8.45pm. She did not press the bell again. Checks by prison officers at 9.27pm and 4.19am revealed “nothing untoward”.
  • It was left to two prisoners to alert staff to the fact that there was blood in her cell at 8.21am on 27 September.

Prisons and Probation ombudsman Sue McAllister said: “Ms A gave birth alone in her cell overnight without medical assistance. This should never have happened. Overall, the healthcare offered to Ms A in Bronzefield was not equivalent to that she could have expected in the community.”

The publication of the report has triggered multiple calls for an end to the imprisonment of pregnant women from the Royal College of Midwives, NGOs and academics in the field. 

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Source: The Guardian, 22 September 2021

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