Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Henry ALLEN

Inquest into the Death of Henry ALLEN

Delivered on : 2 August 2022

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : Yes

That the Honourable Minister for Corrective Service, the Hon. William (Bill) Johnston MLA, give consideration to directing the Commission of Corrective Services to amend Commissioner’s Operating Policy and Procedure 6.2 to include specific reference to the procedures to be followed when a prisoner subject to a continuing detention order is terminally ill, in order to facilitate early review by the Supreme Court of the change in circumstances of the prisoner, where appropriate.

Summary : Mr Henry Allen was 60 years of age when he died on 14 June 2020 from sepsis and aspiration pneumonia on a background of oral squamous cell carcinoma and multiple co-morbidities with terminal palliation at Fiona Stanley Hospital. Mr Allen was a prisoner at the time of his death, as he was subject to a continuing detention order under the High Risk Serious Offenders Act 2020 (WA), which replaced the Dangerous Sexual Offenders Act 2006 (WA).

Mr Allen had an extensive criminal history, including numerous violent sexual offences. He had spent much of his adult life in custody and had been subject to indefinite detention under either the DSO or HRSO legislation since the expiry of his last sentence, that was imposed on 4 December 2014.

Mr Allen had a complex medical history and well-established chronic disease. He was a lifelong heavy smoker and had a history of alcohol abuse. When in prison, Mr Allen received comprehensive care for his various medical conditions, but his treatment was complicated by his aggressive behaviour and non-compliance with medications and treatment recommendations. He was also unwilling to make lifestyle changes to improve his health, such as ceasing smoking.

In late 2016, Mr Allen reported a sore, red throat and cough. It initially appeared to resolve, but in February 2017 he again complained of a sore throat and his right tonsil was noted to be enlarged and inflamed. He was referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and eventually diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the right tonsil. Further investigations also led to a diagnosis of lung cancer. Mr Allen was born in and raised in the north, and he preferred to remain in prison in the Kimberly region, but he had been transferred from Derby to Casuarina Prison for the necessary medical investigations, and he remained in Casuarina thereafter to receive treatment. Mr Allen received chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery and eventually his cancers were determined to be in remission. Scans throughout 2019 showed no recurrence of the cancer, and so in January 2020, Mr Allen returned to West Kimberley Regional Prison in Derby at his request, so he could be closer to family and country.

Unfortunately, in March 2020, Mr Allen’s oral cancer was found to have returned. He returned to Casuarina Prison so he could receive treatment at Fiona Stanley Hospital. By April 2020, it had been determined by his treating doctors that Mr Allen was a poor candidate for further intervention, and he was referred for palliative care. Mr Allen was initially given palliative care in the Casuarina Prison Infirmary, before he returned to Fiona Stanley Hospital on 3 June 2020for treatment for aspiration pneumonia and bacteraemia. Mr Allen requested he be allowed to return to Derby, and steps were then taken to try to arrange his transfer to Derby Hospital for end of life care. Unfortunately, Mr Allen died before the transfer could be completed. Mr Allen died in Fiona Stanley Hospital on 14 June 2020.

A forensic pathologist determined the cause of death was sepsis and aspiration pneumonia in a man with oral squamous cell carcinoma and multiple comorbidities, with terminal palliation. The manner of death was natural causes.

The coroner concluded that the supervision, treatment and care provided to Mr Allen during his incarceration was of a high standard. The coroner did observe that the DOJ had failed to initiate the Royal Prerogative of Mercy procedures, as per policy, but it was unlikely that Mr Allen would have been recommended for release in the circumstances. The coroner was satisfied that the DOJ has now rectified the problem that led to a significant number of prisoners not being considered for the RPOM in the recent past.

The coroner made one recommendation aimed at improving the consideration of opportunities for release of terminally ill prisoners who are subject to the HRSO Act.

Catch Words : Death in Custody : Natural Causes : Cancer : Royal Prerogative of Mercy : High Risk Serious Offenders Act

Last updated: 11-Aug-2022

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