Statement by Solicitor Aamer Anwar – on Behalf of the Families of Katie Allan and William Lindsay
“The HMIPS Inspection report has been published today, two weeks before the first anniversary of Katie Allan’s suicide, her family as well of that of William Lindsay have been waiting months for the Inspectorate’s conclusions.
The Inspector briefed the media one day before its publication, such a courtesy was not afforded to family of Katie Allan or William Lindsay.
The families are angry that Her Majesty’s Inspector does not ask why the SPS has failed to implement so many of the recommendations made in previous inspections.
‘Pre-planned announced’ inspections allow prisons at best, to paint an artificial picture, and, at worst, to conceal evidence of endemic institutional failures. It is time that all prisons in Scotland were subjected to unannounced inspections into key areas where there are repeated failures.
HMIPS is full of glowing praise for Polmont describing it as a ‘leading edge prison’; such a statement is seen by the families of Katie Allan and William Lindsay as delusional and desperate.
The Mental Health Review, however, is welcomed by the family. It is a substantial report which will take time to consider. However, on first reading it paints a picture of widespread failures at all levels of the SPS and NHS. They regard the review as a damning indictment of Polmont for what it says, but they raise concerns on what has been missed out.
The findings of the review repeat much of what was said in previous inspection reports in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017. What is shocking is that the SPS and the Governor Brenda Stewart have failed to implement much needed recommendations. Brenda Stewart has presided over a mental health regime which cost the lives of Katie Allan, William Lindsay and others whose names the criminal justice system chooses not to remember: surely it is now time for her to go.
How can Polmont be described by HMIPS as a ‘leading edge prison’, when it is a system in deep crisis, lacking the resources, morale and trained staff which could save lives?
Scottish Prison suicides are at their highest rate ever in the last decade and according to the review ‘Scotland may have one of the highest rates of suicide amongst developed countries.’
The Inspectorate’s report is full of jargon, soundbites and praise for the Governor and the SPS, yet the voices of prisoners and their families go unheard. The prisoners and their families merit only 2½ pages in a 143 pages mental health review.
The Mental Health Review exposes the failure to deal with the culture of bullying, drugs, lack of resources, low staff morale, recruitment and retention issues, as well as communication failures on critical information being shared between the NHS and SPS that could save lives.
The Scottish Government set out a suicide prevention strategy in 2013- 2016, yet in 2019, the review finds suicides at their highest rate, whilst 67% of suicides happen within the first 3 months of being detained
The risk of suicide is at the highest in the 30 days following release, yet we can find no statistics for Scotland- which begs the question why not?
In 2014 SPS said it had a Key Aim -‘Using the time a young person spends in custody to enable them to prepare for a positive future’, how does locking up young people for up to 22 hours in their cells achieve such an aim?
Polmont has no NHS Staff who are trained in dealing with adolescents, why not?
The review acknowledges that the ‘box ticking exercise’ in identifying the risk of suicide is ineffective.
Why in May 2019 is the SPS still considering options for ligature free cells?
Why in May 2019 do 50% of prisoners feel they are not listened to at case conferences?
Linda Allan mother of Katie Allan stated:-
We appreciate that there has been a great deal of work that has gone into the Mental Health Review which involved a number of supporting organisations and in a short period of time. However we are deeply disappointed by HMIPS inspection report, which we see as a missed opportunity and a desperate attempt to cover up the SPS failures which led to our daughter Katie taking her life.
What is shocking is that we find many of the findings replicate inspections that have gone before:-
- In 2012 the inspection of HMYOI Polmont stated “…Polmont is not a “Prison”, it’s is a Young Offenders institute and it is my view that the staff need to take a different approach in order to put each and every youngster in the right road to recovery. However, I do not think the staff see it in this way, indeed many see HMYOI Polmont as just another prison… It is my view that attitudes to young people need to change. (Hugh Monro – Chief inspector)
- The 2012 inspection report made 74 recommendations that needed attention. A number of these recommendations referred to sharing of information, young offenders not engaging in purposeful activity, and bullying.
- The follow-up inspection in 2014 stated that staff could access electronic records including the emergency care summary detailing medication and previous clinical markers.
- During 2016 prior to women moving to Polmont an further inspection took place. David Strang highlighted 2 major concerns. A) Engagement and B) the tension between security/control and care/learning. Only one third of young offenders were at this time engaged in daily activities with a high percentage spending extended period locked in their cells. Higher than average levels of staff sickness were noted, “we found a widespread belief amongst staff at all throughout Polmont that the young men could not be trusted to behave responsibly. This led to a mind-set that high level of control need to be exercised over them …. We noted that an apparent over-emphasis on security had an adverse impact on decision about recreation time in the fresh air and communal dining; all of which were restricted by a fear or expectation that to many young men together would result in disorder or assaults.” The report made reference to the 2012 recommendation on bullying and stated that although a strategy had been launched only 10 referrals had been made in a 2 year period. There was no mention of healthcare inspection at this time.
- During 2017 a follow-up inspection noted a continued lack of engagement and extended periods in cells as well as a lack of progress tackling an acceptable culture of bullying “ during the inspection, examples of bullying behaviour were found… it was clear that the number of referrals, did not reflect the rate of incidences around the establishment. The lack of a SPS wide anti-bullying strategy is an area of concern.” Health Improvement Scotland were present at this inspection, they noted there were no waiting times for mental health care; standardised assessment documents and personalised care plans were in place as well regular line management support and supervision. It was noted this was a practice worth sharing. In addition cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, and an art psychologist were available. It was during the same year that Robert Wagstaff and Liam Kerr took their own lives in Polmont. The report also notes that “…they (prisoners) could be locked in their cells for in excess of 22 hours in a 24 hour period. This situation should not continue…”
Given this background of inspection reports we are deeply concerned that this recent review makes no reference to the common recurring themes that require to be addressed – Culture, bullying, staff absence, time spent in cells.
The review published today suggests that “… the wellbeing opportunities afforded to young people were evidence based, leading edge and impressive…” Yet it remains the case that the take up of these opportunities is consistently poor, compounded by a high level of staff absence.
The review emphasises the common factors of young people entering Polmont at risk of suicide – previous trauma, being young, within 3 months of being in custody and on remand. The review does not however address the previous inspection report findings of a culture of control and bullying within Polmont.
Contained within the report is an excellent evidence review carried out by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research carried out by the University of Glasgow. The findings contained within this evidence review concurs with our recent research that there is an increasing trend in suicides; that Polmont has an increase rate in suicides; that risk of suicide is heightened in the initial imprisonment period and that safer cells are inappropriate.
The review omits to make reference to illegal drug mis-use within Polmont and the management of the self-administration of prescription medication which have currency (a main concern of families).
Deborah Coles, Director of the charity INQUEST, stated:
“This report is further evidence that imprisoning young people only causes more harm. How can a supposedly progressive society continue to send people, including children and vulnerable young people, to environments which are unsafe and damaging?
From over 35 years supporting families bereaved by deaths in custody, INQUEST has seen that making improvements to healthcare and support in prison is unsustainable and insufficient. The focus of government must be on improving healthcare in the community and diverting children and young people from prison in the first place.”
Background Notes for Editors:-
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-46163957 (William Lindsay)