Belfast Telegraph

Jail chiefs warned teen inmate was suicide risk

By Connla Young

A teenage prisoner was locked in his cell for around 22 hours a day because of short-staffing before he committed suicide.

Allyn Baxter (19), from Lisburn, hanged himself at Hydebank Wood Prison and Young Offenders Centre in Belfast on July 31 last year.

He was at an increased risk of suicide with a history of substance abuse and self-harm but was left locked up in a prison under-staffed because most wardens did not do a full week on the frontline and sickness levels were high.

A report published by Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe has revealed that police warned prison authorities that the teenager might be a suicide risk when he was transferred to Hydebank.

It has also emerged staff shortages at the young offenders centre resulted in a delay in prison officers being able to locate the teenager’s cell.

The 19-year-old was taken to the secure centre after being charged with a number of public order offences.

Within days of being transferred to the young offenders centre he hanged himself in his cell on July 31 last year. He died from his injuries on August 3.

Mr Baxter previously spent a brief period in the young offenders centre for not paying a TV licence in June last year.

Prison medical records dating from this period that highlighted “issues around self-harm and suicide” were not taken into account by prison medical staff when he was assessed in July, the Prisoner Ombudsman has confirmed.

In her report the Prisoner Ombudsman confirms Hydebank authorities failed to contact Mr Baxter’s own doctor after he was brought to the centre.

The report also reveals that it took prison officers five minutes to reach Mr Baxter on the night.

The alarm was raised by a fellow prisoner who activated his cell buzzer after hearing the teenager gasping for breath.

However, two prison officers located on a different wing due to manpower shortages were unable to establish what cell the alarm was coming from because there was no light indicator panel in their office. The report has highlighted 18 “issues of concern”.

Issues of concern:

The ‘Prisoner Escort Record’ provided by the PSNI at the time of Allyn’s committal to Hydebank Wood was not made available to the nurse officer who carried out Allyn’s healthcare committal assessment.

Information relevant to the assessment of Allyn’s vulnerability was not shared with healthcare staff by discipline staff.

There was a five-minute delay from Allyn being found to an ambulance being called.

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