Select Page

Katie’s parents welcome today’s wide-ranging review of mental health provision for young people in prison custody, as a response to our meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice on the 13th of November last year.

Despite the wide-ranging recommendations made by several inquiries over the last decade it is clear the Scottish Prison Service has obstructed the radical change necessary to stop young people like Katie And William Lindsay taking their own lives.

Katie’s family welcome the review of mental health provision in HMP & YOI Polmont and the appointment of Dr. Helen Smith, Forensic Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist as an external mental health expert as an important first step.

There was nothing inevitable about William and Katie taking their own lives, it was clear to anybody that cared to look, that they were vulnerable and at risk of taking their own lives.

Prison is not the right place to treat serious psychiatric conditions. Prison life has become so divorced from this principle that both prisoners and staff are incarcerated in an unreal and frightening world which at its worst, is killing people. Today is an important step forward in ensuring a legacy of Katie Allan, William Lindsay and all those whose cries for help went unheard.

Below is our official statement on the behalf of Linda and Stuart Allan.

RESPONSE TO THE CABINET SECRETARY FOR JUSTICE, HUMZA YOUSAF MSP’s ANNOUNCEMENT OF A EXPERT REVIEW OF MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING SUPPORT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN CUSTODY FOLLOWING THE SUICIDES OF KATIE ALLAN AND WILLIAM LINDSAY

A statement issued by the solicitor Aamer Anwar on behalf of Linda Allan and Stuart Allan, the parents of Katie Allan

“Katie’s parents welcome today’s wide-ranging review of mental health provision for young people in prison custody, as a response to our meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice on the 13th of November last year.

At that meeting over 15 points of action for Scottish prisons were presented to him and several of those have been taken on board. (See end note)

But the family also want to hear about longer term plans on inspection of prisons across Scotland.

Despite the wide-ranging recommendations made by several inquiries over the last decade it is clear the Scottish Prison Service has obstructed the radical change necessary to stop young people like Katie And William Lindsay taking their own lives.

Katie’s family welcome the review of mental health provision in HMP&YOI Polmont and the appointment of Dr. Helen Smith, Forensic Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist as an external mental health expert as an important first step.

Since meeting with the Cabinet Secretary, Katie’s family have carried out additional research which highlights grave concerns regarding current observation policies within Scottish prisons. No reference is made to observation policies, which should be covered in the review.

Our contact with prisoners has highlighted their views of being labelled as ‘at risk’ of suicide. There is a reluctance to admit feelings of suicide as they will be placed in a ‘suicide cell’, stripped, provided with anti-ligature bedding and clothing, have all their personal belongings removed and be given finger food.

In addition they will be ‘checked’ at intervals either of 15 mins, 30 mins or 60 minutes, often by prison officers switching on a cell light, Prisoners treat such cells as ‘punishment cells’.

We would hope members of the expert group will recognise this practice as inhumane and degrading

Suicide  Statistics

One serious concern that must be addressed by the Cabinet Secretary, is the SPS’s attempts to cover up the true picture of suicides.

The Cabinet Secretary advised the Allan’s that following their request

for information on deaths in custody recorded on the SPS website, that the SPS has reviewed the way in which it publishes information in relation to deaths in custody with the aim of ensuring that it is both accurate and up to date. The SPS external website was updated on 17 December 2018.’

Whilst it is accurate the SPS has updated its website information on deaths in custody, what they actually did was to remove such information for four weeks and now the same information will only be available on a quarterly basis.

This is nothing less than a cynical exercise in hiding the true picture of the number of suicides taking place in our Prisons.

In 2018 there has been 26 deaths in Scottish Prisons, yet only one recorded as a suicide. (William Galbraith on the 8th January 2018)

This cannot be right as the next of kin are given a death certificate shortly after a death in prison, Katie’s stated that the cause of death was by hanging, but on checking the Scottish Prisons Website (ww.sps.gov.uk/Corporate/Information/PrisonerDeaths.aspx) Katie’s death is registered as ‘Not Determined- Awaiting FAI’.

The vast majority of suicides are by hanging at ligature points in cells, so it makes no sense that when families are told their children have killed themselves, that the SPS does not list cause of death provisionally as suicide.

This is what the Ministry of Justice does in England and Wales on a monthly basis.

Sentencing Guidelines

The Scottish sentencing council’s development of specific sentencing guidelines for young people is a welcome step, but the real test will be the implementation, monitoring and audit of such sentences.

Prison should always be the last resort. The present sentencing guidelines are not working in practice. It is simply unacceptable that the Sheriff saw no alternative to custody for Katie or that William failed from the age of three by the ‘care system’ was sent to prison because no secure placement could be found.

Inspections

There is no oversight mechanism of inspection reports, unannounced inspections are practically non-existent and the inspections which take place are announced in advance and only every several years.

This investigation and review recommendations are to be presented to the Deputy First Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport and Cabinet Secretary for Justice in Spring 2019 at the same time as the publication of the routine inspection findings of Polmont undertaken on 29 October -1 November 2018.

Yet there is no explanation as to why this inspection should have to wait up to six months to be published

Following a death in custody there is a culture of secrecy and defensiveness, not interested in learning lessons or accepting responsibility.

In England and Wales the system since 2004, The Prisons and Probations Ombudsman (PPO) has investigated all deaths in prisons, It is informed immediately of all deaths and its staff have a deadline of 26 weeks to compile a draft report on the circumstances of each which goes both to the relevant coroner ahead of an inquest and to the next of kin.

When the proceedings are complete every Ombudsman’s report is published on its website. There is only one place to look. This does not happen in Scotland.

Fatal Accident Inquiries:-

COPFS also confirmed in December that it has increased its resources with a view to reducing the time required to complete FAIs and to improve the provision of information to families and next of kin.

The FAI system is a broken system with delays of up to several years, the lack of funding and representation for families denies them a voice. Where they do take place there is no binding recommendations, no oversight mechanism to see if there is any implementation in prisons of the findings.

Providing additional funding to the Crown Office, will not resolve the crisis of delays or the agony that families face as they fight for the truth as years pass by.

In Scotland the Scottish Legal Aid Board hold the purse strings for deciding if they will fund representation for families of the deceased, but even if they are, there is no ‘equality of arms of justice’ and their legal team struggles against the resources of the state.

Silence until an FAI is an option that only suits our failing prison system. Memories fade, cover ups take place and even when an FAI concludes their recommendations are not binding, words of condolences are expressed, no lessons are learned and more suicides will take place with the same excuses offered years later.

Conclusion

The Cabinet Secretary acknowledges that ‘no death by suicide should be acceptable or inevitable’ – we thank him for this acknowledgement.

The reality however is that at least 82 deaths by suicide have occurred across the Scottish prison estate within the last 10 years – this is a gross underestimation (as not all information is available).

There was nothing inevitable about William and Katie taking their own lives, it was clear to anybody that cared to look, that they were vulnerable and at risk of taking their own lives.

Prison is not the right place to treat serious psychiatric conditions. Prison life has become so divorced from this principle that both prisoners and staff are incarcerated in an unreal and frightening world which at its worst, is killing people. Today is an important step forward in ensuring a legacy of Katie Allan, William Lindsay and all those whose cries for help went unheard.

***

The following requests were made of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice at our meeting with him in November 2018

Inspection

1. An immediate, unannounced inspection of HMPYOI Polmont should take place. This should include interviews with families, prisoners, staff, relevant criminal justice community teams and third sector organisations.

2. A far-reaching reform of prison inspection should take place. This must include the role of Health Improvement Scotland (HIS) and the Mental Welfare Commission in the inspection process.

3. An immediate review of the 2013 agreement between HMIPS and HIS should take place, reporting findings (Including the number of joint inspections made) to the cabinet secretaries for Justice and Health. A tripartite inspection process informed by the expert opinion of those affected by custody should be established.

Scottish Government

4. A short life Ministerial task force on prison reform, accountable to the justice committee to inform the 2019/20 Programme for Government should be established.

5. For the Government to take expert opinion from agencies such as INQUEST and the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research which should inform the work of the task force. and include a purposeful and concise review of both the McLeish commission and Dame Angiolini publications.

6. A Cross Party Group on prison reform should be established (A Cross Parliamentary Group on Women’s Justice currently exists however there is no information in the public domain concerning its business plan, agenda or minutes)

Lord Advocate

7. A robust audit process (including data capture) of the new principles and purposes of sentencing guidelines should be established to report to the Lord Advocate on compliance within one year. This should include a review of criminal justice social work court reports to ascertain the value and influence of such reports on sentencing outcomes.

8. There must be an immediate review of the provision of information and the liaison with families following a death in custody as well as ensuring compliance with convention rights for the deceased’s family members.

Data and Learning

9. An immediate investigation to all self-inflicted deaths in Scottish prisons in the last three years should take place, reporting to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice within a one-year period. This should include a review of all outcomes of the DIPLAR process and the effectiveness of any subsequent action taken.

10. There must be a review of the recording of deaths in prison to ensure a true picture emerges of the scale of suicides and attempted suicides, in line with how the MOJ involves key stake holders and releases quarterly reports on self-inflicted injuries in prisons.

Fatal Accident Inquiries

11. An Investigation into the delay in FAIs resulting from a death within the Scottish prison estate by the Crown should take place. Recommendations should be made to the cabinet secretary within a six-month period.

Healthcare

12. An immediate review of the suicide prevention strategy in prisons, including the appointment of an expert in each prison establishment solely responsible for the prevention of suicide and self-harm.

Gender Equality

13. The immediate appointment of a strategic lead within the Scottish Prison service responsible for the rehabilitation of young female offenders.

Physical estate

14. The Health and Safety Executive should undertake an immediate review of all prison estate in Scotland to ascertain the risk posed by ligature points in cells as well as a cost benefit analysis of the removal of such.

15. A review of the effective use of CCTV should also take place.