April 25, 2023 11.00 am This story is over 14 months old

Released prisoner died at Lincoln halfway house where drugs went ‘unchallenged’

He was ‘shocked at the prevalence of drugs’

A recently-released prisoner who was trying to stay clean was found dead after being placed in a Lincoln halfway house where drug use was “rife”.

Stephen Bottomley, 39, had complained about the amount of use, but his requests to be moved to a safer location were refused.

He was released on licence to Wordsworth House after serving 18 months for common assault and GBH.

He had a history of substance misuse, but had managed to become drug and alcohol free thanks to prison rehab services.

He was released to the Yarborough Road facility in August 14 2020, but died after taking psychoactive substances just a month later. 

A report into his death by the Prison & Probation Ombudsman says that he told a probation worker “he was shocked at the prevalence of drugs”.

He said he had a photo of a resident just outside the building apparently under the influence of drugs. He had reported this to staff, but no action was taken.

“Mr Bottomley said he was worried about the use of drugs at the AP [approved premises], and that it was not an environment he wanted to live in, particularly given his history of alcohol misuse,” the report says.

“Mr Bottomley said he needed to leave the AP as he was concerned that he might start to drink alcohol again to enable him to cope.”

He was found lying on his bed covered in vomit on August 24, and told staff “you know why I’m like this”.

Wordsworth House, an approved premises on Yarborough Road, Lincoln | Photo: Google

In another instance, he appeared to be under the influence of drugs when he arrived back at Wordsworth House.

Despite the challenges, he was excited to have found work at Grimsby Fish Market and to have met a woman online.

On September 12, Stephen was seen entering a bathroom in the facility along with three other residents. 

Residential workers noticed he wasn’t in his room around 11pm, and discovered him collapsed in a toilet stall. Due to his size, they were unable to free him.

They rang 999, and at one point Stephen was described as breathing just six times a minute.

When paramedics arrived, they were able to get him out of the stall; but at this point he had stopped breathing and had no pulse.

He was taken to Lincoln County Hospital, but died three days later.

A post-mortem concluded he had died from a heart attack and brain injury caused by synthetic cannabinoids (a psychoactive substance).

Scales with white powder residue were found in the room of one of the residents seen in the toilet with Stephen. The police were informed and the man was recalled to prison.

The report concluded: “We are very concerned that psychoactive substances (PS) use appeared to be going unchallenged at Wordsworth House during Mr Bottomley’s time there.”

It adds: “I am pleased to note that the new manager who took over at Wordsworth House in early September 2020 has introduced a zero tolerance drugs policy and reintroduced drug testing. 

“However, the AP does not test for PS. I am concerned that there is still not an effective strategy and testing regime to deal with suspected PS use.”

It was recommended that the National Probation Service review its testing policies, and report instances of drug use.

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