A County Durham prisoner who was homeless after he left HMP Durham died from a drug overdose just two days after he was released, a Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report reveals.

Ricky Skinner, 35, died from "multiple drug toxicity" with a needle in his hand on November 19, 2022 after he was found unresponsive by a friend following a purchase of heroin in Middlesbrough the day before.

A post-mortem examination revealed that Mr Skinner had fatal levels of cocaine and morphine in his system as well as mirtazapine and zopiclone - which is suspected to have exacerbated the depressant effects of morphine.

The report says: "Mr Skinner’s friend said that Mr Skinner bought heroin on November 18. He said that they went to a friend’s house and, at 8pm, Mr Skinner fell asleep and was snoring.

"At midnight, Mr Skinner’s friend found him unresponsive. He went to a telephone box and telephoned the ambulance service.

"Ambulance paramedics attended and confirmed that Mr Skinner had died. They found a needle in Mr Skinner’s hand."

An inquest later concluded that Mr Skinner's death was related to drugs.

An investigation was then launched by the Prisons and Probations Ombudsman which examined his time in prison as well as the days leading up to his release where it is stated he did not report to the Middlesbrough Probation office despite his licence requirements.

Mr Skinner was first sentenced in June 2022 to six months in prison for theft, harassment and criminal damage, and was released in August on licence but had it revoked in November, returning to HMP Durham.

Detailed notes reveal that upon his return, the prison's nurse planned for Mr Skinner, who was "unkempt and thin", to be monitored for opiate withdrawal based on a health screening that showed he had a heroin, cocaine, and opioid dependence.

A nurse planned for him to be monitored for opiate withdrawal but Mr Skinner became "abusive and confrontational" when he was given methadone rather than pregabalin, which are both medications used to assist withdrawal.

The report then adds that a nurse from the Clinical Drug and Alcohol Recovery Team (DART) reviewed Mr Skinner and noted that he "looked well".

On the same day, nurses noted that Mr Skinner had been homeless during the last year but refused to engage with the team or provide his substance use history.

Two days later, on November 7, Mr Skinner's community offender manager received a call from Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council stating that he had been evicted from his temporary accommodation.

He was instead spending his days at Redcar Library "causing a nuisance". 

Later, in the week leading up to his release, the ombudsman's report shows Mr Skinner was referred to organisations to provide accommodation support and wellbeing services.

He stated that he "did not need support regarding finance, benefits and debt" in custody. 

On November 17, Mr Skinner was released on licence from prison and was, per his terms, to report to the Middlesbrough probation office that afternoon.

He was also required to attend substance misuse sessions and to be drug tested when requested by his community offender manager.

However, Mr Skinner did not attend the probation office and therefore did not know to attend a housing assessment. 

The report concluded: "Homelessness on release from prison is a significant and complex challenge. This was the case for Mr Skinner.

"The housing options officer appropriately referred Mr Skinner to Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, but they could not offer temporary accommodation. He was therefore released from Durham homeless.

"She said that Mr Skinner was expected to report to the Middlesborough Homeless Team on the day of his release for an assessment of needs and emergency accommodation.

"He did not go to his initial probation assessment, so she was unable to tell Mr Skinner that he should attend the housing assessment."


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It adds: "While we are satisfied that prison and probation staff referred Mr Skinner to appropriate agencies, Mr Skinner was released homeless.

"The provision of suitable accommodation for people leaving prison, particularly for those with complex vulnerabilities, risks and needs, is an issue that extends beyond the remit of HMP Durham or local probation services.

"The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the local authority may want to be aware of the issues raised in this case."