Prison not to blame for inmate death

Published Wednesday, 07 May 2014
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The suicide of a prisoner at Maghaberry Prison last year could not have been predicted, a Prisoner Ombudsman report has found.

Prison not to blame for inmate death
The report said that the inmate gave out mixed messages to prison staff. (© UTV)

"Mr F" was a law student who had a history of depression and had previously attempted suicide in the community.

The Prisoner Ombudsman deemed that he had successfully concealed his distress from prison officers and healthcare staff, and that nobody in the prison realised he was so disturbed he would take his own life.

The report said a range of supports were put in place for Mr F, and it commended several features of good practice by NIPS and SEHSCT personnel.

However the Ombudsman made 19 recommendations to improve standards of prisoner care and help prevent serious incidents or deaths in the future.

Four previous Prisoner Ombudsman recommendations which were accepted by the NIPS - involving the Supporting Prisoner at Risk (SPAR) procedures and first aid training - were not fully implemented in this case.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service and the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust have confirmed that due care and attention will be given to the recommendations that apply to them.

Prisoner Ombudsman Tom McGonigle said: "There were significant levels of intervention with Mr F during his time in Maghaberry.

"Several staff from a variety of disciplines demonstrated genuine care for his wellbeing, and while he saw a range of mental health specialists, his decision to hang himself could not have been predicted."

Responding to the Prisoner Ombudsman report, Prison Service Director General Sue McAllister said it was clear from the report that the prisoner in question was "a vulnerable individual with many troubles".

"He concealed his distress from prison and healthcare staff and his decision to take his own life could not reasonably have been predicted," she said.

"There are however, a number of important issues raised by the Ombudsman in relation to improving standards of prisoner care and helping prevent serious incidents or deaths in the future, and I will pay close attention to this in my overall consideration of the report in collaboration with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust."

Mrs McAllister added: "I would extend sympathy to the family in what have been difficult circumstances."

© UTV News
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2 Comments
Alfred in Dromore wrote (167 days ago):
It appears to me that in recent years there have been a number of investigations done into the NIPS from which was generated dozens of recommendations and severe criticism. All the while though those in senior management and within the higher ranks of the Dept of Justice's Civil Servants remain in their lucrative jobs. Several prisoners have reportedly taken their lives in recent years and not one in authority have been hauled over the coals or sacked. I would recommend a visit the AIMS Portal section of the N.I Assembly's website and then take a look at the number and type of Questions that are being put to the Justice Minister about the NIPS. Evidently there are major problems within the NIPS/DOJ management who, one could reasonably conclude, are a law on to themselves - answerable to no-one, are able to close ranks to protect their positions and are immune from any sanction over the deaths of human beings for whom they have the ultimate duty of care, let alone mismanagement of the staff who clearly can be hunted down to take the wrap for any wrongdoing.
Patrick in Lisburn wrote (168 days ago):
Given the comments of the Prisoner Ombudsman and the NIPS Director General, there are 19 recommendations many of which have previously been made over a number of years and not been implemented by the prison service it is a contradiction in terms to say that NIPS were not to blame or that the suicide of this unfortunate man was unpredictable is it not? All prisoners are vulnerable and NIPS has a corporate responsibility to ensure that prisoners receive the highest standards of care, that all policies and procedures are adhered to with rigor by senior management and those staff on the ground and that appropriate training is provided to those staff. The findings of the Prisoner Ombudsman do not reflect this.
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