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Self-harming case 'worst I have ever seen' says prisons boss

Published 14/09/2016

Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service Sue McAllister has worked in prisons for 30 years
Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service Sue McAllister has worked in prisons for 30 years

The head of Northern Ireland's prison service has said she had never seen such an extreme case of self-harming as Sean Lynch's.

Director general Sue McAllister has worked in prisons for 30 years.

She said: "This report clearly illustrates the difficulty of managing someone with severe mental health issues in a prison.

"Prison officers support a wide range of challenging people in custody and play a pivotal role in keeping prisoners safely and securely.

"In my thirty years in prisons I have never come across a case of such extreme self-harm.

"While this incident took place over two years ago, it is important that the Service learns from the findings of the Prisoner Ombudsman."

Stormont Justice Minister Claire Sugden said it was an awful case.

"It is important to reflect on the independent assessment quoted in the Ombudsman's report which said Mr Lynch's condition was beyond anything that prison officers could cope with.

"While our officers are trained to support and care for vulnerable prisoners, the Supporting Prisoner at Risk (SPAR) process was not designed to care for someone as challenging as Mr Lynch."

The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust is responsible for healthcare in prisons.

A spokeswoman said it accepted the findings and recommendations relating to healthcare in the Ombudsman's report.

The Trust also commissioned an independent review of Mr Lynch's treatment and care and recently met Mr Lynch and his family to discuss the findings of this review and receive their feedback.

She said: "The review highlighted that dealing with drug misuse and associated mental health issues within a custodial setting is very difficult.

"Mr Lynch was in Maghaberry for a short period of time, during which he was assessed and reviewed by mental health and primary care healthcare staff.

"We have advised Mr Lynch that the learning from these reviews has been used to implement improvements to our systems in the provision of healthcare in prison.

"This has been a tragic outcome for Mr Lynch and we have already expressed our sympathy to him and his family.

"We will continue to work closely with Northern Ireland Prison Service to improve support for vulnerable people within the prison setting."

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