FMQ: Government to look at issue of mental health support at Polmont Young Offenders Institution

William Lindsay
William Lindsay
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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said her government will look at the issue of secure provision as well as mental health support at Polmont Young Offenders Institution following a teenager’s suicide.

William Lindsay, also known as Brown, 16, killed himself within 48 hours of being remanded at Polmont, despite having been flagged up as a suicide risk.

It is understood the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and Glasgow’s chief social work officer had wanted William to be put in a secure unit, but there were no places available.

Earlier this week, the family of Katie Allan, who also took her own life at Polmont, met with Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf amid concerns of a “spiralling epidemic” of suicides in Scotland’s prisons.

Asked by Labour MSP Pauline McNeill about an apparent 11 per cent reduction in the number of secure places, Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament the issue would be “seriously looked at”.

Read more: Background: Teenager William Lindsay died in custody after being failed by system

During First Ministers’ Questions, Ms McNeill asked: “Is the First Minister aware that by all accounts, those who worked with William said he was crying out for help and that prison was not the right place for a young man who spent his life in care?

“Can the First Minister explain why the 2016/17 figures show a reduction of 11 per cent in the number of secure places and the complete closure of one unit? Does the First Minister agree for these reasons and many more there is a need for an urgent review of availability of secure accommodation?”

Ms Sturgeon said the Cabinet had discussed the issue of secure provision at “some length” earlier this week.

She said: “Let me start by putting on record my sincere condolences to the family of William Lindsay. I would also take an opportunity to put on record my condolences to the family of Katie Allan who also died in Polmont recently.

“I don’t think any of us can imagine the distress that both of these families are going through. Clearly we are determined that any lessons that need to be learned, will be learned.”

She added: “Looking in particular at the case of William Lindsay, there are a number of things I want to address and make sure we look at properly. The issue of secure care provision is certainly one of those issues; how we do even more to keep young people out of the criminal justice system altogether and, of course, the issue of mental health support within Polmont itself. These are all issues under the active consideration of the Scottish Government.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said:“Secure care units are far from a perfect solution but if it is the case that a lack of availability has played a role in a young boy’s death then that would tragic.

“No family should ever have to go through such an ordeal nor should they face interminable waits to find out what happened.”

Read more: Parents of young woman who died in custody meet justice secretary