Belfast Telegraph

Prison blameless over inmate death

The death of a law student who hung himself in prison in Northern Ireland could not have been predicted, an investigation has found.

The troubled "model prisoner" died in his cell in Maghaberry after an earlier suicide attempt before he was incarcerated, according to Prisoner Ombudsman Tom McGonigle.

He had depression and a tendency to cope by self-medicating using mind altering substances, a report from Prisoner Ombudsman Tom McGonigle said.

The ombudsman said: "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."

He had difficulties in his relationship with his partner, the victim on this occasion, professing a deep love for her and hoping to maintain their relationship.

When he arrived in prison he suggested he had no support from relatives or friends yet had regular visits from his partner and mother and numerous phone calls.

The report said: "Because he gave such mixed messages the Northern Ireland Prison Service and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust staff who were responsible for his care were not fully aware of Mr F's changing and deteriorating social circumstances.

"He was not known to the Prisoner Safety and Support Team and was not regarded as a vulnerable prisoner."

A doctor said he did not know what could or should have been done to better understand the difficulties in his relationship with his partner.

A range of supports were put in p lace for him.

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

Prison Service director general Sue McAllister 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."

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