Questions ‘rightly’ asked after custody death – minister

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The Justice Secretary has said “there are rightly questions being asked” following the death of a teenager at a young offenders’ institution.

Sixteen-year-old William Brown, also known as William Lindsay, died while on remand at Polmont Young Offenders’ Institution (YOI) in October.

The Scotsman reported that he had taken his own life days after being remanded, despite having been flagged up as a suicide risk.

A mandatory Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) will be carried out in due course.

The newspaper report comes around a fortnight after the parents of a young woman who killed herself in Polmont YOI called for a review of Scotland’s prison system.

Katie Allan’s family sought a meeting with Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf as they launched a campaign calling for change.

Responding to the Scotsman report on Twitter, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon MSP said: “Another preventable suicide. Another young life ended in prison.

“Katie Allan and William Lindsay are not the first young people to die at the hands of a broken system but they must be the last.

“What the hell is going on at Polmont?”

Mr Yousaf said he will set out the steps being taken “to ensure we are providing the best possible care” for young people in custody.

He tweeted: “The story of William Lindsay is a tragedy – there are rightly questions being asked.

“I will explore what can be done in the immediate term and what is more appropriate for the Fatal Accident Inquiry.”

He also tweeted: “I am meeting the family of Katie Allan shortly – the other young person referenced in the article.

“After listening to their concerns I will give details on what we intend to do to ensure we are providing the best possible care for our young people within the prison estate.”

Ms Allan, a 21-year-old geography student, was convicted in March of a drink-driving offence which saw her injure a pedestrian and she was sentenced to 16 months in jail.

Stuart and Linda Allan said their daughter was bullied in Polmont YOI near Falkirk and lost more than 80% of her hair due to the state of her mental health. She died there in June.

An entry on the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) website notes: “William Brown, 16, a prisoner at HMP & YOI Polmont has died. He was remanded at Glasgow Sheriff Court on 4 October 2018.

“Police Scotland have been advised and the matter reported to the Procurator Fiscal. A Fatal Accident Inquiry will be held in due course.”

Mr and Mrs Allan’s lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said the two deaths “were not inevitable”.

He has called for “all those politicians who claim to care about justice or young people” to “consider their shameful silence on this issue”.

Responding to the latest case, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of this young man.

“Investigations have begun ahead of the Fatal Accident Inquiry and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of this individual case.

“We recognise, however, that many young people entering the criminal justice system have complex needs and we work with agencies to ensure appropriate support is available when needed.”

A Crown Office spokesman said: “The investigation into the death of William Brown (or Lindsay) is ongoing and is under the direction of Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU).

“There will be a mandatory Fatal Accident Inquiry in due course once investigations are complete.

“The family will be kept updated in relation to any significant developments.”

An SPS spokesman said: “Every death in custody is subject to a DIPLAR (Death in Prison Learning and Audit Review), which we will conduct along with partner agencies, and that process would feed into the FAI.”

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