A PRISON officer who falsely claimed he made suicide watch checks on a Blackpool inmate, who took his own life, has been spared jail.
Christopher Oldham, 36, was on remand at HMP Preston when he hanged himself just a few minutes after Shaun Percy visited his cell.
His body lay undiscovered for three hours because Percy, 50, failed to carry out compulsory half-hour checks, Preston Crown Court was told.
He also falsified records to say Mr Oldham, of Egerton Road, North Shore, was sitting on his bed watching television and told him he was feeling OK - when, in fact, he had already died.
Percy’s supervising officer, wife Lisa, 51, added further entries and forged Percy’s signature to show he made checks up to the point when the death was revealed.
Both pleaded guilty to an offence of misconduct in a public office.
And yesterday the couple, from Walton-le-Dale, near Preston, were sentenced to a 12-month jail term suspended for two years.
Judge Anthony Russell QC said: “I must make it clear were it to be the case negligence led to the cause of death then very much graver charges would have been pursued.
“These are serious breaches of duty.”
He said he also took into account the Percys had suffered punishment in other ways after losing their jobs, home, reputations and were both in poor health.
Mr Oldham, who leaves behind a four-year-old daughter, was in custody in relation to an alleged offence of harassment and was assessed as being at risk of suicide on April 8 last year.
The court heard Shaun Percy’s office, which had CCTV monitors showing all the cells, was only two or three feet away from Mr Oldham’s cell.
He falsely claimed he had carried out checks at 9.45pm, 10.15pm and 10.45pm when Mr Oldham was hanging in his cell.
The defendant only made his second check on Mr Oldham at 12.21am and then raised the alarm.
Kate Blackwell QC, prosecuting, said Shaun Percy also failed to perform similar checks on three other prisoners at risk of suicide on the evening of April 21 last year.
But it was accepted the defendants’ actions did not play a part in the death of Mr Oldham, who would have suffered “rapid unconsciousness and death” according to a post-mortem examination.
Shaun Percy accepted he had been complacent but said he had made the checks by glancing at the CCTV monitor.
Lisa Percy told detectives she acted out of sympathy for her husband’s position as he would have lost face with colleagues.
The couple, of Carrwood Way, were also ordered to each perform 200 hours of unpaid work and abide by a six-month curfew between the hours of 8pm and 7am.