Bereaved family call for review of Scottish prison system

By agency reporter
October 30, 2018

The family of 21-year-old Katie Allan who died in HMYOI Polmont in Falkirk, have launched a campaign seeking an immediate review of the Scottish prison system. They are also seeking truth and justice on the treatment of Katie, who was bullied and suffered ill treatment in prison prior to her self-inflicted death. The family are crowdfunding for legal funding to support this campaign and their legal representation.

INQUEST primarily works with families bereaved by state related deaths in England and Wales and are supporting the family of Katie Allan alongside their solicitor Aamer Anwar, as part of a wider examination of the post-death processes in Scotland. Deaths in Scottish prisons are investigated at the inquest equivalent, Fatal Accident Inquiries. There is no independent investigation equivalent to the Prison Probation Ombudsman in England and Wales.

Linda Allan, mother of Katie Allan said: “So broken is our justice system, so shrouded in institutional secrecy, so covered in the dust from the endless circling wagons, we simply could not stay silent. It is time for radical change. From the minute of arrest Katie was failed. Katie plead guilty and fully accepted she should be punished, that is not in dispute. What we did not realise is that one impulsive decision would ultimately cost Katie her life.

"Some may say that Katie deserved what happened. She certainly deserved punishment. But this is Scotland, this is the 21st century, what Katie did not deserve, was the horrific experiences she endured daily at the hands of the Scottish prison service. We hope that her legacy will be that no other young person in Scotland today experiences such a catalogue of catastrophic events at the hands of the Scottish justice system.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: “We do not have the death sentence in the UK, but for Katie that is exactly what this sentence was. Bullying, self- harm and strip searching defined her prison experience. It is clear that the treatment Katie received in prison had a devastating effect on her mental and physical health and the prison failed to respond appropriately and humanely.

"The common thread between Katie and other women who die in this way, is that prison was not the solution to the harm caused by her behaviour, it could only ever inflict more harm. There are a plethora of reports arguing that prison should be a place of last resort. Scotland has led the way in recognising the need to reduce the women prison population and invest in alternatives to custody.

"This tragic death begs serious questions about sentencing policy and guidelines and the regimes and conditions in prison that propelled Katie to end her life. There must now be robust wide ranging scrutiny of these key issues well beyond the flawed investigation processes that lack independence and timeliness. INQUEST will continue to work with the family in their search for the truth, justice and accountability they deserve and in the hope that future deaths can be prevented.’’ 

Aamer Anwar, the solicitor representing the family, said: “We have lost our way in Scotland, incarcerating people in dungeons of despair doesn’t rehabilitate anyone. It simply institutionalises violence and increases the risk of suicide. Katie Allan was failed by a system which keeps repeating the same mistakes, her suicide was not inevitable and her family will not be silenced but will fight to ensure that other lives can be saved.”

INQUEST’s recent evidence-based report Still Dying On the Inside examines deaths of women in prison in England and Wales.

Key recommendations in the report:

  • Redirect resources from criminal justice to welfare, health, housing and social care.
  • Divert women away from the criminal justice system.
  • Halt prison building and commit to an immediate reduction in the prison population.
  • Review sentencing decisions and policy.
  • An urgent review of the deaths of women following release from prison.
  • Ensure access to justice and learning for bereaved families.
  • Build a national oversight mechanism for implementing official recommendations.

* Read Still Dying on the Inside here

* Stop prisoner suicide: Justice for Katie Allan https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/prison-bullying/

* INQUEST https://www.inquest.org.uk/

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