A married couple have been handed suspended jail sentences after covering up failings in suicide watch procedures on the night an inmate was found hanged in his cell.
Shaun Percy, 50, failed to carry out half hourly cell checks on Christopher Oldham, who was on remand in HMP Preston.
His wife Lisa, 51, then made false entries into the care log to cover up for her husband’s failings.
In one entry, Mrs Percy reported Mr Oldham was standing at the back of his cell. It later emerged the prisoner had committed suicide several hours earlier.
An earlier entry, made by Mr Percy half an hour after the inmate’s death, said he was sitting on his bed watching television and had said he was OK when spoken to.
Shaun and Lisa Percy, both of Carrwood Way, Walton-le-Dale, later pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office on the night of Mr Oldham’s death.
However the court heard had the proper checks been carried out they would not have prevented the death of builder Mr Oldham.
Speaking outside the court, Mr Oldham’s widow, Carol, said the sentencing of Mr and Mrs Percy brought some closure to the family who have sought justice for Christopher for 16 months.
Mrs Oldham said: “We are devastated by the death of Chris and it has been a long 16 months to get to this point.
“We are glad this whole ordeal is over and the family can move on.
“Chris was in there to be looked after and kept safe. It is just very, very sad.”
CCTV taken from the prison showed Mr Percy making a cell check on Mr Oldham at 9.22pm.
The court heard the inmate ended his life just minutes later.
However Recorder of Preston Judge Anthony Russell QC said: “There could be circumstances where failing to comply with such procedures would affect the health and wellbeing of vulnerable prisoners.”
Mr Percy claimed he had checked Mr Oldham using CCTV in his office, located a few feet from Mr Oldham’s cell.
But prison protocol stipulates CCTV should not be used as a substitute for physical checks.
The court heard the prison officers had suffered as a result of their action, losing their jobs, home, reputations and pensions.
Patrick Cassidy, defending, said Lisa Percy had acted out of panic.
Both officers had more than 20 years experience in the prison service and had previously acted to prevent the suicides of other inmates. Speaking after the case, Mark Leech, Editor of the Prisons Handbook, said: “Shaun Percy was a lazy public official paid to take care of vulnerable prisoners and he failed to do that job.
“He not only forged entries in the official books of the prison but his wife also sought to cover his tracks.
“They both came between a hair’s breadth of losing their liberty and this sentence should go out as a warning to other prison officers tempted to behave in the same disgraceful way.”
Mr and Mrs Percy were sentenced to 12 months each suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. They will be under curfew from 8pm to 7am for six months.