Paperwork delay meant that Bradley Derosa died inside
Bradley Derosa. Picture: Norfolk Police
April 11, 2023
A prisoner died of terminal cancer in hospital after an application for early release on compassionate grounds was delayed, a report has revealed. A watchdog has also ruled that Bradley Derosa was also placed in “inappropriate restraints” for more than one month while he was seriously ill, in pain and only mobile for short distances with help.
Mr Derosa died of stomach cancer in hospital on 26 May, 2022 while a prisoner at HMP Wandsworth. The 51-year-old had absconded from another hospital on 28 March that year after struggling to accept his diagnosis, according to a Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report.
Mr Derosa was arrested in hospital on 18 April, having gone to hospital the week before where officers applied an escort chain restraints to him – a long chain cuffed at one end to the prisoner and at the other to an officer. His care was transferred from HMP Norwich to HMP Wandsworth, the closest prison to the hospital, but Wandsworth managers did not carry out their own risk assessment.
They continued to use an escort chain on Mr Derosa in hospital, as police had done, until 20 May when it was not appropriate given his worsening condition. The report, published on 31 March, reads, “This was despite his poor condition, as recorded by the healthcare team on 21 April, who reported that Mr Derosa was only mobile for short distances with living aids and was in pain.
“While we recognise that Mr Derosa had previously absconded from hospital, it was clear at the time that his health had deteriorated significantly, and that therefore it is reasonable to suggest that his risk had decreased considerably. There is no evidence that this was taken into consideration by Wandsworth when they decided to continue to restrain Mr Derosa.”
The governor at Norwich requested Mr Derosa’s prison offender manager begin his application for early release on compassionate grounds on 28 March. The report says, “Mr Derosa absconded the same day and we consider it reasonable that the application was not started during the period he was AWOL.
“However, an application was not started for 18 days following his arrest and recall into custody, at which point his health was very poor and he met all of the ERCG [early release on compassionate grounds] criteria. This was a significant and unacceptable delay. When we asked Wandsworth if there was a reason for this delay, they were unable to provide an explanation.”
Applications for early release on compassionate grounds can be made when prisoners are seriously ill to request they are permanently released from custody before their sentence has expired.
Mr Derosa was remanded to HMP Norwich in June 2020 and sentenced to five years in prison for drugs offences in January 2021. He was placed in a category D open unit at Norwich in July 2021.
In January 2022, Mr Derosa told his GP he was experiencing ongoing chest pain and acid reflux. His symptoms worsened and, on 15 March that year, he was admitted to A&E with difficulty swallowing. He stayed in hospital and told HMP Norwich that doctors had found something with the “appearance of stomach cancer” on 16 March.
A hospital consultant told Norwich Mr Derosa’s cancer was terminal on 26 March and he was struggling to accept the diagnosis. Mr Derosa told a family liaison officer he wanted to go to his sister’s house and get a second opinion from the Royal Marsden Hospital if he was released early on compassionate grounds.
The Wandsworth Offender Management Unit began Mr Derosa’s application for early release on compassionate grounds on 5 May and submitted it on 26 May. In the meantime, on 20 May, the governor authorised a new risk assessment which requested the removal of Mr Derosa’s escort chain.
Mr Derosa died on 26 May. A doctor gave Mr Derosa’s cause of death as stomach cancer which had spread to other parts of the body.
The report said, “We are concerned that Wandsworth failed to undertake their own risk assessment regarding use of restraints on Mr Derosa, which resulted in inappropriate restraints being used for over one month while he was seriously unwell.
“We are also concerned about the significant delay in Wandsworth starting Mr Derosa’s application for early release on compassionate grounds. This was a serious oversight and might have prevented his application being granted before he died.”
The ombudsman recommended the governor ensure managers carry out risk assessments when reviewing the use of restraints on seriously ill prisoners in hospital, along with making sure applications for early release on compassionate grounds are started as soon as a prisoner becomes eligible.
A Prison Service spokesperson said, “Our thoughts remain with Mr Derosa’s friends and family. In response to the ombudsman’s report, HMP Wandsworth has already reissued guidance to staff on appropriate restraint when escorting prisoners to hospital and introduced new processes to make sure terminally ill prisoners are considered for compassionate release at the earliest opportunity.”
Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter