Coroner to deliver Holcroft findings on 12 August

The NSW Deputy State Coroner,
Paul McMahon, will deliver his decision in the Mark Holcroft Inquest on Friday,
12 August 2011.

The Public Interest Advocacy
Centre represented Mr Holcroft’s family at the Inquest, which sat in Wagga
Wagga and Sydney.

Mark Holcroft (pictured, centre) was a
low-security inmate who suffered a heart attack while travelling in a prison
van from Bathurst to the Mannus Correctional Centre, near Tumbarumba.

Mr Holcroft reported to
Justice Health nurses that he had chest pains a week before he went on his
fatal journey from Bathurst to Mannus. He was given tests, but a doctor
employed by Justice Health misread the results.

A former prisoner,
Andrew Bond, was one of several prisoners inside the van when Mr Holcroft

Mr Bond told the
Inquest there was no way to communicate with the guards who were driving the
van, so inmates started to yell, wave at security cameras and rock the prisoner
compartment to alert them to the fact that Mr Holcroft was having a heart

One of the guards,
Clive Bateman, told the inquest he heard the noise but assumed the commotion
was because the inmates were getting bored.   

The Inquest highlighted several

  •  There was no
    two-way communication in the van so prisoners could not alert the drivers
    to emergencies
  •  There was only
    one observation camera working in each of the van’s compartments
  •  There was no
    alert button for prisoners in NSW prison transport
  •  The prisoners had
    no food, no water and no toilet stops on a journey that lasted over four hours.

Expert evidence given at the
Inquest indicated that Mr Holcroft’s death was preventable because, if the tests he was given before he travelled were properly interpreted, he should have been immediately hospitalised and
would have been treated successfully.

PIAC made submissions to the
Coroner requesting recommendations, including:

  • A mandatory
    duress button in all prison vehicles
  • An intercom
    system that allows two-way communication in prison vans
  • Mandatory water,
    food and toilet stops on long prison van journeys
  • All NSW
    Corrective Services policies and protocols about prisoner care to be open and
    accessible to the public.

Photo: The Holcroft
family, Christmas 2008 … Christopher
(left), Liane, Mark, Nerida and Peter. Photo courtesy of Christopher Holcroft.

Related coverage: Prison van death took up to an hour 

Media contact: Dominic O’Grady

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