14 Jun 2012

Prison death similar to 2002 incident, inquest told

10:23 pm on 14 June 2012

An inquest into the death of a prison inmate has been told the circumstances are very similar to another death in 2002.

The inquest is into the death of Zachiriah Tangohau, 20, of Nelson, in Christchurch men's prison in 2010.

The coroner says it can be assumed it was a death by hanging.

Nigel Hampton, QC, representing the Howard League, told the inquest the case has strong echoes of another case in 2002.

Hayden Hall also died in Christchurch men's prison by hanging himself from a grill in the roof above his cell door.

He said Coroner Richard McElrea made a recommendation to the then-Ministers of Corrections and Health that the Department of Corrections give serious consideration to the urgent replacement of the cell door grill' in remand units.

Mr Hampton said nothing has been done to rectify this in the subsequent 10 years.

Privacy issue

Questions have also been raised about the role of a prisoner's privacy, when it comes to issues of safety.

Tangohau had epilepsy and a record of previous attempts at self-harm.

Lawyer Steve Zindel, representing the family, has raised the issue that none of the prison officers interviewed knew his medical history.

Coroner Christopher Devenport has heard evidence suggesting the risk assessment protocol used was not appropriate.