CUMBRIA’S only prison has been criticised for failures in the way it dealt with a serving prisoner who later died.

Darren Michael Johnson, 45, was found dead in his cell on the morning of January 20, 2018, an inquest was told. He died from hanging.

A sports enthusiast, who loved Liverpool Football Club, Mr Johnson had long struggled with a drug problem but while in HMP Haverigg he became a “model prisoner,” the jury heard.

At an inquest hearing, coroner Kally Cheema outlined the evidence heard by the jury over four days, concluding in a verdict of death by misadventure. They said Mr Johnson’s actions were a cry for help rather than a conscious effort to take his own life.

They ruled appropriate steps had not been taken following an appointment with the prison doctor just three days before his death.

Mr Johnson had told the GP he had “nothing to live for” and “was just waiting for his life to end”.In May the prison GP gradually took Mr Johnson off the antidepressant mirtazapine and replaced it with another one.

In a later consultation, Mr Johnson, who was from Morecambe, asked to go back on mirtazapine and told the doctor he had felt like he had nothing to live for – but said he had felt that way for 20 years.

The GP suggested a talking therapy, and at the end of the consultation Mr Johnson appeared more positive.

“He specifically recalled that, because when [Mr Johnson] left, he was smiling,” said Ms Cheema.

By January 17, his mood was low and he told the doctor his medication was not working.

The jury ruled the decision to stop Mr Johnson’s mirtazapine had an adverse impact on his state of mind.

Jurors also concluded prison officers had a general lack of understanding about the need to carry out welfare checks on inmates, and that a check was not carried out on Mr Johnson on the day of his death.

The hearing had been told of how illegal drugs were smuggled in for inmates.

In a three-month period - November and December 2017, and January the following year - there were 40 reported incidents of prisoners using psychoactive substances, including spice.

At times, the drug was thrown over the perimeter fence; and there were instances of psychoactive substances being sprayed on letters sent to inmates.

The inquest heard that Mr Johnson had used psychoactive substances frequently in August 2017 but said he could not help himself.

He eventually decided to get himself clean, receiving enhanced status and landing a job first in the prison laundry and then in its call centre.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the prison is taking innovative action to tackle drugs use and has already reduced the number of cases where prisoners are reported to be under the influence.

“All prisoners’ mail is photocopied to avoid paper soaked in new psychoactive substances getting in to the prison and a new key workers scheme has been introduced to better support prisoners misusing substances,” said the spokesman.