A PRISON’S “systemic failure” to intercept drugs contributed to the death of a young inmate, an inquest concluded.

The inquest into the death of 22-year-old HMP Berwyn inmate Luke Morris Jones took place in Ruthin.

Mr Jones was found slumped in a cell at the prison on March 31, 2018 and was taken to hospital but died within minutes of arrival.

John Gittins, coroner for north Wales (east and central) invited the jury to consider three options for their conclusion: the short form conclusions of misadventure or a drug related death - or a narrative conclusion, should they feel the first two options two did not fully encompass all of the relevant circumstances.

He reminded them of several key points from the previous three days’ evidence and questions which had arisen from it, including methods the prison used to intercept drugs.

The jury heard previously how paper sprayed with spice had been sent in on Christmas cards and envelopes made to look like they contained legal letters.

HMP Berwyn has trained dogs which can detect illicit substances and following Mr Jones’ death a new mail scanning system was brought into use - which the hearing was told had seen a significant improvement in the number of men caught under the influence of psychoactive substances.

In summarising how Mr Jones had come by his death, the jury reiterated the circumstances in which he had been found in his cell and subsequently taken to hospital where he died, adding: “Luke died after smoking a novel psychoactive substance in circumstances where there was a systemic failure in HMP Berwyn’s systems for preventing drugs entering the prison.

“HMP Berwyn were aware of the inefficiency of the system and insufficient mitigation was in place whilst it was addressed.”

After deliberating for about two hours, the jury returned and concurred with the cause of death previously put forward by home office pathologist Brian Rodgers - ventricular cardiac arrhythmia due to taking a synthetic cannabinoid.

Following the jury’s decision, Mr Gittins recorded the conclusion that Mr Jones’ death had been a “drug-related death in circumstances where a systemic failure in HMP Berwyn’s systems for preventing drugs entering the prison contributed.”

Following the conclusion, the coroner told the hearing he will be writing a section 28 report for the prevention of future deaths in which he will express his concerns regarding continuing accessibility of drugs to men in HMP Berwyn.

He said the issue was not unique to HMP Berwyn, but something affecting the whole of the UK, adding: “As a coroner in my coronial area, I do feel a real responsibility for ensuring future deaths where possible are prevented and that applies regardless to the people we are dealing with.

“This is a massive problem which we can not give up on, regardless of how difficult these things are to detect.

“It is clear there is good work being done [at HMP Berwyn]. More effort continues to be needed.”

Speaking of Mr Jones’ father David, who attended the hearing, he concluded: “This is a reflection on Mr Jones - he asked me to be involved subsequently in assisting him in writing to those persons who sought to save his son’s life.

“I would consider it a privilege to assist him in doing so. I thank you for the respect you have show the court in dealing with this sad event.

“I express one final time my condolences on the loss of your son.

“It is hoped that the sad loss of Mr Jones is something whereby lessons can be learned and we can prevent future deaths of this nature.”

The coroner also took the opportunity to praise those who had attempted to save Mr Jones’ life on the night of his death.

He said: “All of the staff involved in seeking to resuscitate Luke at the time of his collapse in the prison perspective, healthcare perspective, the ambulance response and the hospital deserve credit for their efforts.”