14/09/2016

Staff At Maghaberry Prison Watched As Prisoner Self-Harmed

Staff at Maghaberry Prison in Lisburn have been criticised after they failed to intervene while a prisoner blinded himself, according to a Prison Ombudsman report.

Sean Lynch, 23, was being detained at the prison in June 2014 and inflicted "extreme and shocking" injuries through self-harm over a three day period.

In June 2014, Mr Lynch made himself blind and extended a self-inflicted groin injury which was directly observed by prison officers.

Officers did not enter his cell to prevent him from self-harming further.

The report stated: "Their duty of care was trumped by security concerns that appear to have had little basis in reality."

Ombudsman Tom McGonigle has made 63 recommendations for improvement, of which 11 have previously been made to, and accepted by the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS).

Mr McGonigle said: "This dreadful sequence of self-harming highlights the challenges of caring for severely mentally-ill people in prison. The key messages from this investigation are the need for someone to take prompt and effective control when a prisoner/patient's mental health is deteriorating rapidly; and for improved assessment and information-sharing at the point when people go into prison."

Justice Minister Claire Sugden said: "This was an awful case for everyone concerned and I am deeply sympathetic to Mr Lynch and his family. 

"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.

"There are significant issues to consider for both the Northern Ireland Prison Service and our health partners in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT). The report has made a number of recommendations for both organisations and we will work with SEHSCT to implement these to provide support for vulnerable prisoners."

(CD/JP)

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