Holcroft family applauds inquest

Some consolation: Christopher Holcroft with sister Liane Curry and a family portrait. Inset: Mark Holcroft.
Some consolation: Christopher Holcroft with sister Liane Curry and a family portrait. Inset: Mark Holcroft.

THE family of a former Peakhurst tiler who died travelling in the back of a prison van in 2009 are pleased an official report recommends all prisoners in police vans be allowed to have water and food, plus designated toilet and exercise stops.

Mark Holcroft, 59, died of a heart attack in the back of a prison van near Batlow on the way to a Tumbarumba prison farm.

Other inmates in the van had tried to raise the alarm for the drivers after Holcroft appeared ill during the journey.

Mr Holcroft, serving seven months in custody for drink-driving, was found dead on arrival.

The inquest into his death made its findings last August. His brother Christopher Holcroft, and sister, Liane Curry, who continue to live in St George, with another sister, Nerida Pride, had legal representation at the inquest.

The siblings have championed a review of the system which was in place when their brother died, and have pushed for reforms.

The deputy state coroner Paul MacMahon found that Holcroft's death was primarily the result of the failure of Justice Health NSW to provide proper care.

Following the coronial findings, Corrective Services and Justice Health have recently publicly published their responses.

The report has led to the Commissioner of Corrective Services, Ron Woodham, issuing instructions to Corrective Services NSW (CCNSW).

The instructions include one that means CCNSW now must develop food packs for prisoners being transported for two or more hours.

Toilet and exercise breaks are to be provided at prearranged secure venues at correctional centres or at police stations.

The report noted that before the coronial inquest two-way intercom devices were being installed into its transport vehicles, with 39 vehicles already having been fitted.

The remainder of the fleet will now follow.

Possible disciplinary action against Peter Augustine Sheppard in regard to his actions as observer of the inmates' transport vehicle was being considered, the report said.

Responses to recommendations to the Director of Justice Health (JH) include:

¦ All JH patients to be assessed on reception into custody; and

¦ The patient transfer policy to be reviewed, with 14 centres already addressing problems in communication, documentation and the delivery of appropriate care.

Christopher Holcroft said that family members remained concerned that it took authorities five days to contact them about their brother's death.

The siblings have had a private meeting with Mr Woodham.

Christopher Holcroft said the responses to the recommendations would take the system from the 18th into the 21st century.

"Now at least the human rights of inmates will be looked after, thanks to someone else's work — the family's.

"We spoke to the attorney-general, the Premier and Commissioner of Corrective Services Ron Woodham," he said.