Prison staff could not have prevented an ‘abhorrent’ paedophile from hanging himself in his cell, an investigation has concluded.
David Hough, 56, was found lifeless with a ligature around his neck at Hull Prison on March 26, 2020. He was declared dead there a short while later despite the efforts of officers and paramedics.
It came weeks after he was jailed for life over an appalling catalogue of sex attacks on three boys, as well as sharing hundreds of sick child abuse images with like-minded paedophiles online.
He admitted nine counts of rape and others of indecent assault and engaging in sexual activity with a child, committed in Essex and North Lincolnshire between 1996 and 2019.
Hough came to the attention of police after the National Crime Agency identified an indecent image that he uploaded onto the Internet.
He was arrested at his home in Scunthorpe and a search was carried out.
Electronic devices, memory cards, discs and digital storage devices were seized with over 1000 indecent images of children found, as well as indecent footage of a sexual nature involving children.
After Hough was sentenced in 2020, DC Ali Cunningham, from Humberside Police’s Internet Sex Offenders team, condemned Hough for his horrific crimes.
He said: ‘Hough is a perverted and abhorrent child sex offender who preyed on vulnerable young children, grooming them so that he could commit deplorable actions without anyone knowing.’
After the paedophile took his own life, an investigation was carried out by the Prison Ombudsman, as happens with all prison deaths.
Once his crimes were discovered, Hough was remanded to Hull Prison on August 19, 2019.
Staff there started suicide and self-harm prevention procedures (known as ACCT) as he was in low mood, he had been charged with serious offences and it was his first time in custody.
Hough had a history of depression and social isolation and was in poor physical health but often refused to take his medication if he was annoyed with staff.
He was assigned a ‘care buddy’ to help him with cleaning his cell and collecting his meals.
Hough remained under ACCT supervision for several months after two acts of self-harm and expressing thoughts of suicide. He had regular contact with his keyworker.
In February 2020, Hough received discretionary life sentences for multiple sexual offences with a minimum period of 10 years.
His ACCT plan was closed weeks later on March 4 after his mood continued to improve and avenues of support remained in place.
His case manager decided the plan did not need to be reopened as he seemed stable and knew how to seek help if he needed to.
At 4.10pm on March 26, a supervising officer found Hough kneeling on the floor of his cell with a ligature around his neck.
The officer radioed an emergency medical code for assistance. Staff began CPR, but paramedics were unable to resuscitate him, and he was declared dead.
Prisons Ombudsman Sue McAllister found there were no concerns with the clinical care and management of Hough.
She said there was no way of predicting Hough would take his life when he did, adding: ‘The investigation found the standard of physical and mental healthcare provided to Mr Hough at Hull were of an acceptable standard and equivalent to that which he could have expected to receive in the community.
‘Although we consider that the initial assessment of his risk as “low” was not appropriate, we are satisfied that Mr Hough received a good level of support thereafter for the nearly seven months he remained subject to ACCT, and that his risk was raised when he self-harmed.
‘Mr Hough appeared to become more stable and settled and started to engage and interact with other prisoners and staff. We consider that it was reasonable for staff to have closed the ACCT when they did.
‘Despite his risk factors, we did not see any evidence that staff could have been expected to identify that Mr Hough was at heightened or imminent risk of harming himself in the three weeks before his death.’
The only concern the report cited was the fact the debrief was carried out by someone involved in trying to help save Hough’s life.
Ms McAllister said: ‘We are concerned that the staff debrief was led by a member of staff who had taken part in the attempted resuscitation and who needed support himself.
‘The Governor should ensure that the post-incident debrief is conducted by a member of staff who has not played a direct role in the incident.’
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