A PRISONER who died after taking spice had harmed himself 60 times in approximately 12 months, an inquest was told.

Luke Morris Jones was a serving inmate at HMP Berwyn in Wrexham when he was found slumped in a cell on March 31, 2018.

The 22-year-old was taken to hospital but died within minutes of arrival - the cause of which was thought by home office pathologist Dr Brian Rodgers to be ventricular cardiac arrhythmia due to synthetic cannabinoid (spice) use.

During the third day of the inquest into Mr Jones’ death, Angela Firmin gave evidence.

At the time of Mr Jones’ death she had been the head of safety at the prison, and is currently head of offender management.

She told the hearing that during the approximate 12 months Mr Jones had been at Berwyn, there had been 60 documented instances of him harming himself.

During that period, she added, there had been seven instances when staff had implemented an ACT (assessment care in custody team plan) - a measure to monitor and address the safety and well being of prisoners - in respect of Mr Jones.

He was the subject of an ACT when he died, Mrs Firmin told the inquest, and he had been classified as being at “high risk” on March 26.

Following that incident, he was placed under constant observation for his own safety.

Mrs Firmin acknowledged the practice could have a “dehumanising effect” on inmates, as whilst being subject to it they had no privacy from their assigned observing officer at any time.

She said his constant observation continued until a meeting with him on March 30, when it was noted that after resolving some issues involving the prison canteen, he appeared in a brighter mood.

It was agreed his observations be changed to four per hour, despite still being assessed as high risk.

Asked by John Gittins, coroner for north Wales (east and central), about the rationale behind this decision, Mrs Firmin said it had been down to a change in his attitude and the potential detrimental and “dehumanising” effect of being constantly watched for long periods of time.

At a meeting the following day Mr Jones was in “a really good mood” and the decision was made to reduce the observations further to two per hour. He was still assessed as high risk.

The inquest heard at one point Mr Jones had asked to move to another community within the prison due to concerns about drugs being more accessible in his own - but later changed his mind.

Rachel James, head of custody at the prison, told the inquest of some of the ways drugs could be brought into the prison, including throwing packages over the wall, using drones, visitors and - one of the most “popular” methods - through the mail.

She said, as DS Ros Hewitt told the hearing the previous day, paper sprayed with spice has been posted in to the prison.

The hearing was told on Thursday the papers could also come disguised as letters bearing the mark “rule 39.”

This had made detection difficult for the prison staff as such a mark - when genuinely used - signifies the contents to be legal documentation or letters from solicitors, and prohibits opening unless by the intended recipient or in their presence.

Mrs James explained security measures in place at the prison include trained dogs which can detect substances and - from September 2018 - scanning equipment which can be used to check all “rule 39” letters for illicit substances without opening them, in addition to a selection or the regular mail.

She said since the scanners came into use, drug tests have shown a “markedly” lower number of prisoners caught under the influence of illicit substances.

Asked whether she felt there were adequate deterrents to discourage prisoners from using drugs, Mrs James said there always had to be a “balance”, adding: “I think there’s a challenge in any custodial environment for people engaged in substance use to be deterred.

“I understand the dynamic of someone who is driven to use substances and without being flippant, where there’s a will there’s a way.”