Northern Ireland news

Vulnerable young man 'failed' by prison authorities and health service

Joseph Rainey. Picture: UTV

THE family of a vulnerable man who died days after attempting to take his own life while in custody, say he was let down by prison authorities and health service.

A jury at an inquest yesterday said errors made by the Prison Service and South Eastern Health Trust contributed to Joseph Rainey's death.

It said the prison failed to train staff in suicide and self-harm prevention.

There was also a failure to adequately assess Mr Rainey which was a contributing factor to his death.

Mr Rainey (20) died in hospital of injuries sustained in Hydebank Wood Young Offenders' Centre in April 2013.

He had attempted to take his own life 10 days previously.

Mr Rainey had been in prison on four occasions for offences including theft and criminal damage. He was on prescription medication for depression.

Family solicitor Niall Murphy said Joseph's death was entirely preventable.

"At every stage of his committal to Hydebank Wood, over a period of just two hours, there were failings. Joseph's parents want to ensure that systems are put in place to ensure that no other young person is exposed to the dangerous failings that their beloved son was exposed to," he said.

"Twenty three people have died in custody since Joseph's death and a further 23 have died within a fortnight of their release.

"The system is broken and requires emergency attention before any other young people die. To this end, Joseph's parents will be seeking an urgent meeting with the minister of justice to discuss these findings and to ensure that their much loved sons death is not reduced to a faceless statistic."

Ronnie Armour, Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, said the coroner's findings would be considered carefully and any areas of learning "will be fully implemented".

"When someone is placed in our care, the family has every right to expect that everyone, whether prison or healthcare staff, will do all that we can to keep their loved one safe," he said.

"On behalf of the Northern Ireland Prison Service I would like to offer my deepest apologies to the Rainey family. Our staff, along with healthcare professionals from the South Eastern Trust, support many vulnerable people who are sent to prison.

"They do so with professionalism and compassion and it is no exaggeration to say that they save lives on a daily basis. We continue to learn about how best to support those in our care and we have introduced a range of measures with the focus on a person-centred approach over recent years.

"While it is important to highlight when we do things well, it is equally important that we admit when we fall short."

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