Woman who gave birth to stillborn baby in UK prison cell "will never forgive jail" 4 months ago

Woman who gave birth to stillborn baby in UK prison cell "will never forgive jail"

"The pain of Brooke's death will never leave me."

**Content warning: This article contains details of pregnancy and infant loss.

A woman in the UK who gave birth to a stillborn baby in her prison cell's toilet has said she "will never forgive the prison" for her child's "horror death".

31-year-old Louise Powell's daughter Brooke was stillborn in 2020 at HMP Styal, Cheshire after a series of "missed opportunities" to identify the mum's urgent clinical needs.

Powell, who did not know she was pregnant, told BBC Newsnight that she begged for an ambulance prior to her daughter's death but was left alone while she was "crying for help".

A report by the Prisons and Probations Ombudsman found that the duty nurse made "a serious error of judgment" by not responding to her after they were contacted three times regarding the severe pain she was in.

The document, which refers to Powell as Ms B, said: "The duty nurse did not review Ms B's record sufficiently or go to see Ms B as she should have done. She failed to fully assess Ms B's clinical situation, and this was a serious error of judgement."

However, the report stated that the Supervising Officer (SO) on Powell's house block appropriately alerted the nurse to her condition and updated her when the situation changed.

Around an hour before Powell gave birth, the SO wrote in the wing observation book: "[Ms B] is having very bad stomach cramps and is bleeding. Hotel 1 [Nurse 2, the duty nurse] contacted three times but would not come out to see her. Tasked night staff with coming to give pain relief and appointment made for triage tomorrow."

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The report also stated that all staff members who helped her during and after labour acted "with humanity and to the best of their abilities".

It added that prison staff and nurses should be given early labour training.

Powell was imprisoned in March 2020 after admitting common assault, racially-aggravated harassment and criminal damage, telling staff there was "no chance" she was pregnant on her first day.

But her lawyer, Jane Ryan, said prison staff knew she had not gotten her period in four to five months and never followed up.

"The pain of Brooke's death will never leave me. I cannot forgive the prison or healthcare for leaving me when I was calling for help and I felt like I was dying," the mum said in a statement.

"I was having a medical emergency and should have been urgently helped. Instead I was left. I want justice for Brooke so no other woman has to go through this horror in prison."

Prisons Minister Victoria Atkins said that "the tragic events detailed" in the report should "quite simply never happen to any woman or child".

"We have already implemented the report's recommendations and important improvements have been made to the care received by pregnant women in custody," she said.

"But there is clearly much more to do to ensure expectant mothers in prison get the same support as those in the community – something I will continue to prioritise."

NHS England, which commissions healthcare in prison, apologised for the Powell's loss and said it had "taken prompt action on the recommendations in the report".

The Ministry of Justice said it was looking at how to "better screen for pregnancy in jails so no woman falls through the cracks".