Bullying not tackled in prison suicide

Published Tuesday, 20 November 2012
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Prison bosses did not adequately investigate the bullying of an inmate in Northern Ireland who took his own life, according to an investigation.

Bullying not tackled in prison suicide
The report found prison staff did little to address incidents of bullying. (© UTV)

The Prison Ombudsman report into the death of 19-year-old Samuel Carson, who died after taking his life in Hydebank Wood Prison in May last year, found incidents of bullying were not appropriately dealt with.

Mr Carson, from Belfast, was targeted and bullied by other prisoners due to charges against him involving sexual offences involving a minor in November 2010, charges which were then dropped by the PPS.

He was struck on the head with a ceramic ashtray, punched and threatened with having his throat cut, a report by Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe said.

The case for the remaining charges, against which Mr Carson pleaded his innocence, was never heard because of his death.

Regrettably, this investigation has again highlighted, that the Prison Service does not properly implement its own bullying policy and, in particular, does not adequately investigate bullying incidents and take appropriate action.

Prisoner Ombudsman

The Prisoner Ombudsman said that prison officers had recognised bullying was happening on numerous occasions, but that "little was done to address the perpetrators".

Ms McCabe said: "There cannot be any acceptance that bullying in prisons is inevitable or will be tolerated. A failure to robustly address bullying within prisons can lead to all too tragic consequences."

The investigation also identified issues in connection with Samuel's mental healthcare treatment in prison and his medication.

It highlighted inadequate monitoring of Mr Carson's mental health after an antidepressant drug was prescribed to him in the weeks prior to his death, a drug that posed an increased risk of suicidal thoughts in young males during its initial use.

The Ombudsman also found that paramilitary threats to his life outside of prison meant that he was he could not be bailed and that his youngest child could have been taken into care if he remained in contact with his girlfriend.

A statement from Samuel's mother Sylvia and the rest of the family thanked Ms McCabe for the investigating, and warned that "bullying kills".

"We would also like to thank those few members of staff and friends in Hydebank referred to in the report who were simply kind to Samuel during his time there and all who attended his funeral, especially the Prison Chaplains who looked after him so kindly and well," it read.

We strongly ask the relevant authorities in the Justice System to not only note this report but to take immediate pro-active steps to ensure that all matters are dealt with so that no family has to ever deal with the grief that has crippled us and continues to do so, since Samuel's death.

Carson family

The family said they are awaiting an inquest into his death.

The Prison Service Director General Sue McAllister has said that more needs to be done to tackle bullying in prisons, stating the physical and verbal abuse Mr Carson described in the report made for "difficult reading".

She said prisons have a duty of care to protect prisoners through the highest profressional standards.

"It is clear from the report that there were deficiencies in the levels of protection offered to Samuel," she said.

Ms McAllister said new protocols in relation to recording information and the keeping of contact logs have been introduced and that all staff have been reminded that all accusations of bullying must be fully investigated.

She has also commissioned an audit of security management processes in the Prison Service.

© UTV News
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