THE Crown Office has lodged papers to begin a joint Fatal Accident Inquiry into the deaths of two prisoners in Scotland’s national holding facility for young people. 

Katie Allan and William Lindsay both died by suicide while in custody at Polmont HMYOI in 2018. 

The first Preliminary Hearing will be held on 11 July at Falkirk Sheriff Court, with an evidential hearing expected to start on 8 January for six weeks.

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Katie Allan, a 21-year-old Glasgow University student, was sentenced to 16 months after hitting and injuring a teenage boy while over the legal drink-drive limit.

She was imprisoned despite the 15-year-old’s family pleading with the judge not to jail her, and a social services report recommending community service.

She died three months after being locked up, with her family claiming she was bullied by fellow inmates and humiliated by staff.

William Lindsay was just 16 when he was remanded at Polmont. Social workers and the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration wanted him placed in a children’s secure unit but a lack of space meant he was sent to the holding unit. 

The vulnerable youngster, who had spent most of his life in care and had attempted to die by suicide several times, died three days later. 

There have been 49 deaths of under-25s in the prison system since 2005, most of whom took their own lives within the first three months of incarceration.

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Solicitor General, Ruth Charteris KC, said she acknowledged “the deep anguish that the deaths of Katie and William have brought to their families.”

She said: “I met with Katie’s mother and father and William’s mother and brother and having listened to them talk about their experiences I fully appreciate that the wait for these proceedings has been too long and distressing for them. 

“My hope is that this Inquiry provides them with the answers that they are looking for and helps to prevent similar deaths in the future. 

“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has introduced a number of reforms designed to reduce the time it takes to investigate deaths, improve the quality of such investigations, and improve communication with bereaved families. 

“As part of these reforms, a specialist custody deaths investigation team has been set up to focus on cases such as those of Katie and William.”  

An FAI probes the cause of death, and the circumstances around the death as well as looking at whether any reasonable precautions could have been taken. 

Unlike criminal proceedings, FAIs are used to establish facts rather than to apportion blame

The Crown said the inquiry would have a particular focus on the Scottish Prison Service Talk To Me strategy in relation to the prevention of suicide in prison.  

Last year, prosecutors found that a breach of the Health and Safety Act at the jail "materially contributed" to the deaths of the two, but it said the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) was protected by crown immunity.

The Herald:

Ms Alan’s parents, Linda and Stuart, said their research showed that since the introduction of the Talk To Me suicide prevention strategy, there had been a 42 per cent increase in suicides. 

“This Sunday will be the fifth anniversary of our daughter’s death. We will spend the day reflecting on Katie’s life and all she meant to us. 

“Katie’s life, like many other young people, meant nothing to the Scottish Prison Service, if it had she would not be dead.  

“For five years we have known we will have to relive every minute of the horror our daughter faced at her FAI. 

“The Crown office accepts that despite credible and reliable evidence for a successful criminal prosecution they cannot prosecute the SPS due to crown immunity, they accept our domestic law is not fit for purpose, how can we accept this?”

John Reilly, William's brother, told the BBC: "The amount of time it has taken has been the hardest part for me and my family.

"In the past five years we have lost so much.

"My mum and two sisters all died with broken hearts after William died without having clear answers. I just hope now we are getting somewhere and the correct actions are taken by the people responsible."

Mr Reilly added: "Both William and Katie have been neglected by a system that should have been there to help and protect their needs."

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Aamer Anwar, who is representing both families, said the length of time between the deaths of the two and the start of the FAIs, had “allowed a cynical Scottish Prison Service to operate behind a veil of secrecy, covering up systemic failures and preventable suicides."

He added: “Nearly five years have passed since Katie and William’s death, in that time there have been two lord advocates, two solicitor generals, three justice ministers all apologising for delays.

"Since then William’s mother Christine has died and prisoners are now twice as likely to die in prison in 2022 as someone was in 2008. 

“SPS hides behind empty words of condolences in the comfort that no matter how a prisoner dies on their watch, they will never ever be held to account, crown immunity from prosecution effectively gives them a license to kill.” 

“We do not have the death sentence in Scotland but for William and Katie that is exactly what Polmont Young Offender’s Institute meant,” he added. “The lifting of Crown immunity must be a priority for the Scottish Government.”

A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson said: “While it would not be appropriate to comment on upcoming proceedings, we recognise the profound emotional distress experienced by families in any instance when a loved one dies in custody.

“The welfare and safety of those in our care is a priority for the SPS. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons wrote there had been ‘considerable strides made in healthcare’ for young people at HMP & YOI Polmont, following an independent review in 2019."