3 Dec 2014

Son treated as sub-human, mum says

7:47 pm on 3 December 2014

The mother of a prison inmate who died of a suspected drug overdose is sceptical about the likelihood of police laying charges over her son's death.

Jai Davis' mother, Victoria Davis.

Jai Davis' mother, Victoria Davis. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

An eight-day inquest into the 2011 death of Jai Davis while in custody at Otago prison has finished with an announcement from the police they will review the case. Mr Davis had smuggled drugs inside his body and died of an overdose.

The police decided in April not to lay any charges after a major investigation - which involved interviewing about 70 people - due to a lack of evidence.

Detective Inspector Stephen McGregor today told the coroner the case would be reviewed in light of the new evidence which had come out during the inquest.

But Davis' mother, Victoria Davis, told Checkpoint she had no faith in the police or the Corrections Department.

"These people, they just can't get away with treating people like that," she said.

"My son was a human being and he was entitled to medical care."

Instead, he was treated as sub-human, Ms Davis said.

Detective Inspector Stephen McGregor.

Detective Inspector Stephen McGregor. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Mr McGregor told the coroner earlier this afternoon the police would review the case after the inquest in the light of new evidence which had come out.

"I think I can give you an indication that we would naturally review the case post this hearing," he said.

"I think I made it clear that the decision was made at the time relevant to the evidence that was available, and it would be a natural process to review this case."

Any decisions about charges would have to wait until the coroner made his findings, he said.

Corrections Department's chief custodial officer Neil Beales.

Corrections Department's chief custodial officer Neil Beales. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Corrections Department's chief custodial officer Neil Beales told the inquest Mr Davis was not given enough care.

"On his occasion, the balance was weighted too heavily towards the security aspects," he said.

"It's absolutely appropriate that security is a consideration in prison, absolutely, but it must not be the overriding factor.

"A prisoner's health and wellbeing has to be balanced with that."

Karen Urwin

Karen Urwin Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Former Corrections national manager of service support Karen Urwin this morning told the inquest nurses caring for Mr Davis were asking too much of the guards.

There were deficiencies in the medical management of Mr Davis, and the communication between the nurses and guards, Ms Urwin said.

It was inappropriate to put the prisoner in an at-risk cell and ask custody to wake him up every 15 minutes knowing that was not possible, she said.

An alternative which was suggested, of having guards continuously observing a prisoner, would not be appropriate in prison, either.

Asked if the correct place for a prisoner internally concealing drugs was in hospital, Ms Urwin said it was not for her to say.

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