A prison inmate in the midst of a "suicidal crisis" was left alone in his unlit cell with a makeshift noose before he took his own life, a jury have heard.

HMP Liverpool officers Paul Fairhurst and Rachel Jameson have gone on trial at Liverpool Crown Court charged with gross negligence manslaughter in connection the death of Anthony Paine at the category B jail in February 2018. They are accused of "breaching their duty of care" towards the 35-year-old.

Duncan Atkinson KC told a jury of six men and six women, as well as two reserve jurors, during the prosecution's opening today, Tuesday, that Mr Payne had a "history of self-harm, substance abuse and mental health problems" before he was remanded into custody at the Walton prison in October 2017, having pleaded guilty to offences of affray and criminal damage. He was then sentenced to an 18-month stretch in January the following year.

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But he died in his cell on February 19 2018. Mr Atkinson told jurors that Mr Paine had "presented an immediate suicidal crisis" and that Fairhurst and Jameson - the custody manager and senior officer on B-wing, where the inmate was being housed - "were under a duty to take positive steps to reduce that risk and prevent him from harming himself".

His receipt of prescribed medication - including for a "long-term diagnosis of schizophrenia", heart disease and high blood pressure - was said to have been "patchy" during his incarceration, while he was also noted to be "under the influence of spice" at times. He was meanwhile documented to have self-harmed on several occasions in the three weeks prior to his death.

One incident, on the prison's G-wing on January 31, saw him injuring his back. The following day, February 1, Mr Paine then inflicted harm to himself.

Later on the same date, he made a further threat to harm himself. He stated he had done so after being forced to take spice and being subjected to threats, reporting he was "going to be murdered" and other prisoners had "put a price on his head" as they believed he was a paedophile.

As a result, Mr Paine was moved to B-wing on February 3. He told staff he was "happy" following the transfer, but within the following days was seen "making a noose" again.

On February 16, he was "downgraded to basic regime" - which meant he lost "entitlements" including having a TV and being able to move freely around the wing during certain periods of the day - for taking spice. This resulted in him being placed in a cell alongside a fellow drug user.

These quarters were said to have been "in a poor state of repair" and "in darkness even during daylight hours", with one nurse describing it as "the worst cell she had ever encountered". The room had been painted in a dark colour and the overhead light was not working, with the window also being broken.

On the morning of February 19, Mr Paine was said to have been acting "aggressively" and "making racist comments about healthcare staff". He was reported to have been "hearing voices" and had harmed himself, although no implements were found during a subsequent search of his cell.

His observations were increased to once per hour after this. Mr Paine's cellmate was then moved as the room had been left "covered in blood".

Anthony Paine took his own life at the Walton prison on February 19, 2018
Anthony Paine took his own life at the Walton prison on February 19, 2018

At around 2pm, prison officer Kristopher Mason found him to be "in a very emotional state" and attempting to fashion a noose. The worker "calmed him down a little" and persuaded him to take the ligature down, but did not take the item from him.

This incident was reported by the staff member to Fairhurst and Jameson. But the "more senior and much more experienced officer" was said to have made no change to the frequency of Mr Paine's observations following this or taken any "other measures" or given Mr Mason "further instructions".

Mr Atkinson told the jury: "Mr Paine had now deliberately made, and still had, what each defendant understood to be a noose or a ligature. There was to be a period of time when he would, if no steps were taken, be alone in his dark cell with that ligature.

"This was an immediate suicidal crisis. But they neither took any step nor suggested any."

Mr Mason visited Mr Paine's cell again shortly before 2.30pm and "found him to be calmer". He later reported the prisoner had told him at this time he had thrown the item out of his window.

The same officer then returned at around 3pm to find him dead. Resuscitation attempts were made, but Mr Paine was pronounced dead at 5.31pm.

Mr Atkinson added: "Given the obvious and serious nature of the immediate risk that an emotional prisoner with a history of thoughts of self-harm and equipped with the means of suicide posed, and given the easy steps that could rapidly have been taken to address that risk, the prosecution alleges that each defendant breached the duty of care that they owed to someone in Mr Paine’s position to safeguard him from self-harm. Given that their duty was to take all reasonable steps to safeguard Mr Paine from self-harm, that they failed to take those reasonable steps and that he then did the very thing that it was their duty to protect him from, it can properly be said that they contributed more than minimally to that outcome and thus to his death.

"The prosecution further alleges that their failure was of the most serious kind. It not only involved a failure to engage with or follow the relevant prison service instructions or their training in relation to the prevention of self-harm, but it was a failure to apply basic common sense to a situation each had a responsibility to address."

During an interview with police in August 2020, Fairhurst - of Belmont Drive in Chorley - told detectives there had "been no cell for Mr Paine to be moved to" after the issues with his room were raised. The 64-year-old - who has worked in the prison service for around 20 years and had been in his current role, which saw him manage 95 prisoners and 40 staff on the wing, for two years at the time of the incident - added that did not consider increasing Mr Paine's observations further "because he'd thrown it out of the window", and was due to attend a review with the mental health team within an hour after he had brought this meeting forward.

HMP Liverpool custodial manager Paul Fairhurst, 63, arriving at Liverpool Crown Court
HMP Liverpool custodial manager Paul Fairhurst, 63, arriving at Liverpool Crown Court

Jameson, of Middleton Drive in Prescot, meanwhile gave a witness statement saying that the deceased had "calmed down" following the initial incident reported by Mr Mason. The 32-year-old, who joined the prison service in 2015, went on to give no comment when formally interviewed in October 2021.

Mr Atkinson said: "The prosecution contends that each defendant breached their duty of care to Mr Paine to take reasonable steps to protect him from a clear and present risk of suicide.

"In the case of each of the defendants, their breach of the duty of care that they owed Mr Paine involved a significant failure on the part of each to take obvious and straightforward steps. Where the risk of inaction was a risk of death, and where that was the very thing they were required and easily able to address, their breach was a gross one."

Both Fairhurst and Jameson have pleaded not guilty to gross negligence manslaughter. They also deny a health and safety offence.

The trial, before Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, continues. Jurors have been warned the case could continue "effectively until Christmas".

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