Leader – No sense in handcuffing dying prisoners

Hackney Citizen crest identity

The treatment of Sabri Karatas, the terminally ill prisoner who seemed fated to die in shackles, echoes several cases where the authorities have shown a worrying lack of common sense in relation to detainees.

The Prisons Ombudsman last month described as shameful the treatment of Alois Dvorzac, 84, who spent his last hours chained to a custody officer.

In another case, a 67-year-old prisoner with terminal cancer breathed his last while handcuffed to a guard as he underwent end of life care.

Such treatment is not just inhumane, it is so unnecessary that it would appear almost comical if it were not so stubborn and inflexible.

Karatas, who was imprisoned for drug offences, was only unshackled after this newspaper intervened. That shows journalism matters, but it also shows how pig-headed bureaucracies can be when left to their own devices.

Yes, this man committed serious crimes and was in the process of being punished and (ideally) reformed. But having a record for drugs offences does not remove one’s right to dignity in death.

Owing to his illness and the treatment he was receiving at St Joseph’s Hospice, whose staff were not responsible for the decision to handcuff him, Karatas was barely able to speak, let alone flee.

He was quite obviously dying, and yet, until the Hackney Citizen weighed in, Her Majesty’s Prisons Service saw fit to station two guards beside him and keep him in chains.

Now his family want to take him home to Homerton to die. Why shouldn’t prison heads exercise their professional discretion and good judgement, and grant this wish?

Prisons are currently a hot topic – because of Michael Gove’s laudable decision to scrap the Ministry of Justice’s contract with the Saudis, but also owing to report after report about the deteriorating state of our penal service.

Cuts mean governors and staff are severely stretched. This pressure is likely to result in more bad decisions.

Enhanced scrutiny is, we believe, vital if Britain is to maintain the human rights moral high ground.