Northern Ireland

Prisoner Ombudsman probe into death in custody of man who took own life

Daniel McConville took his own life in Maghaberry in August 2018
Daniel McConville took his own life in Maghaberry in August 2018 Daniel McConville took his own life in Maghaberry in August 2018

A PRISONER Ombudsman investigation into the death of a young man who took his own life in Maghaberry has raised concerns about how the needs of people with "multiple low level health diagnoses" are addressed in custody.

Dr Lesley Carroll said "there is considerable work to be done to ensure that the notion of rehabilitation is a reality".

Her comments come following a probe into the death in custody of Daniel McConville from Lurgan. The father-of-two had been in Maghaberry Prison for 70 days when he was found unresponsive in his cell in August 2018.

Despite attempts to resuscitate him he died at the scene.

While in prison, Mr McConville was managed under the 'Supporting People At Risk' ' process, which helps staff identify symptoms or behaviours that suggest a person may be at risk of harming themselves.

Mr McConville, who had frequent periods in custody, had complex needs including a history of self-harm, substance misuse, depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning difficulty.

Commenting on the key learnings from the investigation, Dr Carroll said: "I am concerned that the needs of those who face multiple challenges in their lives, including multiple low level health diagnoses, could be better addressed while they are in custody.

"The challenge is not only to better assess need but also, and importantly, to develop long-term care plans and to ensure those care plans are consistent and persistent throughout the treatment of any individual and that, if required, they are shared with community services on an individual’s release from custody."

The prisoner ombudsman noted the number of cell moves Mr McConville experienced.

She questioned if this was appropriate for the rehabilitation of an individual with ADHD, learning difficulties and wider mental health issues and whether it was appropriate for a young man with anxiety and depression to manage his own medication.

Dr Carroll said she is "concerned that the prison regime does not currently have adequate resources to provide the responsiveness required to support an individual like Mr McConville".

Making a number of recommendations, two of which relate to ADHD identification and training, Dr Carroll said while she found Mr McConville’s care was "within standards, I am also convinced that there is considerable work to be done to ensure that the notion of rehabilitation is a reality for young men".

NI Prison Service director general Ronnie Armour said: "The Prisoner Ombudsman concluded that Daniel’s death could not have been predicted and acknowledges that ‘the care provided by the Prison Service was appropriate based on the information and knowledge available to prison officers.

"However, importantly the report also shines a light on both the multiple challenges faced by people who find themselves in prison and the demands placed on prison staff who care for them.

"Prison Officers are not qualified to make diagnosis around ADHD and other neuro-developmental disorders which the ombudsman also acknowledges are 'not easily recognisable or visible'.

"In our three prisons we have almost 1,800 individuals, with over 30 per cent having mental health issues, over 50 per cent have addiction issues and 53 per cent have a history of self-harm.

"This illustrates the size of the challenge facing our staff and the doctors and nurses from the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust who deliver healthcare in our prisons."