A MOTHER whose 23-year-old son was found dead in his cell at Bullingdon Prison has lost her bid for a fresh inquest into his death.

Stephen Woods, a drug addict who used up to £500 worth of crack cocaine, heroin and methadone every day, hanged himself at the prison, near Bicester, in August 2004.

His mother Sue Woods of The Grove, Abingdon, has campaigned ever since to find out what happened to him in the days leading up to his death.

At the High Court in London, her lawyers argued that the approach taken by Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner at the inquest into Mr Woods’s death amounted to a violation of human rights and stood in the way of lessons being learned for the future.

In June 2007, the inquest jury concluded Mr Woods – who was in a segregation cell when he died, due to earlier disruptive behaviour – had taken his own life.

But only after Mr Gardiner warned the jurors their conclusions should not be “judgmental” and only factors which they considered had “caused or contributed” to Mr Woods’s death should be recorded in their verdict.

Hugh Southey, representing Mrs Woods, argued that was an overly-restrictive direction to the jury, which prevented them from considering wider issues relating to Mr Woods’s death.

Had they been allowed to do so, the barrister argued, the jurors could have found Mr Woods was not “adequately observed” in his cell and there had been no proper assessment of the risk he might commit suicide.

Mr Southey also claimed that, when Mr Woods died, staffing levels at the jail were “inadequate” and a number of the officers responsible for his care “had not been adequately trained or told of the importance of keeping hourly observations of inmates in segregation cells”.

However, High Court judge Sir Thayne Forbes ruled Mr Gardiner had rightly directed the jury that, while the verdict need not be “totally bland”, they should not “trespass” on the territory of the criminal or civil courts.

Sir Thayne said: “I have come to the conclusion there is nothing in Mrs Woods’s criticisms of the coroner’s ‘non-judgmental direction’.”

Mrs Woods, 53, who has three other children, said she was not bitter about the judge’s decision.

She said: “I have decided not to appeal.

“It’s now time to lay Stevie to rest and remember him as the happy, caring, mischievous lad he was.

“Lessons have been learned since his death and if I have helped save one person’s life in prison, by highlighting issues which needed to be addressed, then the past four years have not been in vain.”