A vulnerable prisoner d!ed after smoking spice at a secure mental health unit where some patients are free to leave but can’t be searched.
Cecil Chisale had been impr!soned at HMP Wymott, near Leyland, before being moved to secure unit Guild Lodge in Preston in June 2020 after concerns were raised about his mental health. The 23-year-old had been taking dr.ugs since he was 12.
An inquest held last week at Clitheroe Town Hall Cecil was found unresponsive in the toilets at Guild Lodge at around 7.05am on February 28 in 2021. He had smoked synthetic cannabinoid spice in the minutes before his collapse.
The inquest has heard that dr.ugs at Guild Lodge were rife at the time of Cecil’s d€ath. Legislation prevents staff at secure mental health units from carrying out searches of patients so it is possible that those allowed unescorted leave, who mixed with prisoners detained at the unit, could easily have brought illegal substances back into the unit when they returned.
During the inquest jurors heard a statement from Cecil’s family, who have attended the inquest, in which they said: “Cecil was special. Different in many ways; unique and extraordinary. Cecil touched our lives in a remarkable manner. He left a legacy of living a fulfilled life.”
The family said they remembered him as a cheerful child who was always smiling and had a strong sense of identity even as a toddler. He adored spending time with his grandfather and was raised in Zimbabwe by his two grandmothers, who he loved dearly, before he moved to the UK.
As he got older, he was “bubbly, outgoing, vivacious, funny and self-assured” and Cecil’s family said he “was always calm and polite in his conversations and loved his music”. This music passion particularly focused on Tupac Shakur, while he was also remembered to recite Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ at age four.
Remembered as having “exemplary leadership skills”, Cecil was a class mentor and prefect at school and was scouted by St Helens RFC aged 15. He loved playing rugby league and his dedication was such that he would ask to be taken to training as early as 6am on the days after family parties which ran late into the night.
Cecil, who was born in Zimbabwe, had recently retaken and passed his GCSE Maths qualification and planned to embark on a career in health and social care. His family explained they had no concerns about his health and wanted answers about how he d¡ed. They added: “The void Cecil left in our lives is colossal and will never be filled.”
The inquest heard how two leading medical experts were unable to agree if there is a link between synthetic cannabinoid and pulmonary haemorrhage which caused Cecil’s d£ath.
Professor Simon Elliott, a consultant forensic toxicologist who is highly experienced in the field of synthetic cannabinoids, suggested a cause of d£ath of pulmonary haemorrhage caused by synthetic cannabinoid use. He highlighted several cases where an individual has d¡ed from a pulmonary haemorrhage after taking spice.
However, Home Office pathologist Dr Alison Armour, who is among the UK’s 30 most qualified pathologists, put forward the mechanism of d£ath as pulmonary haemorrhage caused by an underlying unknown cause and said that spice is simply too new to allow for sufficient scientific research to confirm a link between widespread pleural bleeding and spice.
After deliberating the jury concluded that spice did play a part in Cecil’s d£ath. In their conclusion they said: “Cecil Shingirai Chisale d¡ed as a result of pulmonary haemorrhage which was partly dr.ug-related and partly due to unknown causes.”
After the inquest a spokeswoman for Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust said that their policy for searching follows the principles set out in The Mental Health Act Code of Practice (2015), which is statutory guidance. Clinical colleagues at LSCFT do not conduct intimate searches as they do not fall within the remit of the Trust (according to Section 65 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984). Agencies