Coronavirus: Emily Thornberry calls for investigation after two Pentonville prison workers die
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Emily Thornberry has called on the government to investigate whether the death of two support workers at Pentonville is connected to an alleged outbreak of Covid-19 at the prison.
Bovil Peter and Patrick Beckford, both in their 60s, were support staff workers at the Caledonian Road prison and died on April 1 and 3.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) says it is unable to confirm the cause of their deaths. However, it has been widely reported that both men suffered from Covid-19 before they died.
This comes after the Gazette last week reported there had been an outbreak of coronavirus in the over-crowded Victorian jail.
The Islington South & Finsbury MP told the Gazette: “I am deeply saddened by the death of these two support staff, and my thoughts are with their family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.
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“Obviously, given the recently reported cases of Covid-19 infection among inmates at Pentonville, we are all concerned that these two deaths may be connected to that reported outbreak. I hope the possibility will be investigated thoroughly to ensure that any steps required to make prison officers and other staff safe from infection are taken immediately, alongside the ongoing steps being taken to protect inmates and reduce over-crowding in the prison.”
A prison service spokesperson said: “Two staff members at HMP Pentonville have sadly passed away, and our deepest sympathies are with their loved ones and colleagues at this difficult time.”
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They said staff have access to services including 24/7 counselling, trauma support and occupational health.
Workers at the prison have held a minute’s silence for their colleagues.
This comes after the government announced that up to 4,000 inmates in England and Wales are to be temporarily released from prisons in England and Wales to combat the spread of Covid-19.
The government says some low-risk inmates, which excludes violent and sexual offenders, within two months of their release date, will be temporarily freed on licence, wearing electronic tags.
MoJ won’t say which prisons inmates are being released early from. But Pentonville is a category B jail, so it’s likely some of its prisoners could benefit from the policy.
About 90 prisoners had been confirmed as having Covid-19, with another 1,200 prisoners self-isolating. The MoJ says 15 prison officers have tested positive for Covid-19 and about 26 per cent of prison staff are “absent or self-isolating”.
Did you know Bovil Peter and or Patrick Beckford? Contact Lucas at the Gazette newsdesk on 07785 616244 or Lucas.Cumiskey@archant.co.uk
Click here for a directory of agencies helping people in the borough during the outbreak.