Sex offender was found unconscious in cell after suicide bid
DELAYS in reaching an unconscious prisoner in the wake of a suicide bid may have contributed to the serious brain damage he suffered, a watchdog report has found. The 30-year-old convicted sex ooffender, who had a history of psychiatric problems, self-harm and alcohol abuse, was being held in the Care and Supervision Unit (CSU) at Maghaberry Prison when he tried to hang himself in his cell in February last year.
As part of supervision measures for patients deemed to be at risk, he should have been checked on every 15 minutes. But an investigation by Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe found that when the Prisoner – referred to as Mr C – was discovered unresponsive in his cell by an officer, 29 minutes had elapsed from the last time he was observed through the door flap. Ms McCabe said it took a further five minutes to get the cell opened, as a senior officer was also required to be present under security protocols. Resuscitation was commenced with the assistance of prison nurses and after 10 to 15 minutes Mr C had begun to breath again. Paramedics arrived almost half an hour after the prisoner was found.
Ms McCabe said there had been a four-and-half minute delay requesting an ambulance due to “an unfortunate misunderstanding” of a radio message sent by the senior office at the scene. While the prisoner ultimatley survived the episode he was left with complex physical disabilities and cognitive impairment caused by severe brain injury, including an inability to speak and communicate basic needs. He is now cared for in a nursing home. Edward Brackenbury, an expert askec by the ombudsman to assess the medical impact of the delays in reaching the prisoner, said : “Even the smallest delay in rescure will be important in determining the success, or otherwise, of resuscitation following hanging”. The delay was one of 44 issues of concern flagged up by Ms McCabe in her report. While the ombudsman regularly investigates deaths in custody, the probe was the first ‘near-death’ inquiry carried out by the watchdog. Ms McCabe raised concern at the length of time Mr C was confined to his cell during his time in custody and the failure to refer him for a mental health assessment at time of commitgal to prison.
With many thanks to : David Young, Irish News.
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