Family of prisoner who killed herself after ‘bullying’ launch reform campaign

The parents of a young woman who killed herself in jail after enduring “horrific experiences” have called for a review of Scotland’s prison system.

Katie Allan’s family said on Thursday they wanted a meeting with Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf as they launched a campaign calling for change.

The 21-year-old geography student was convicted at Paisley Sheriff Court in March for a drink-driving offence which saw her injure a pedestrian and sentenced to 16 months in jail.

Stuart and Linda Allan say their daughter was bullied in Polmont Young Offenders Institution near Falkirk and lost more than 80% of her hair due to the state of her mental health.

Katie (pictured) had told the University of Glasgow chaplain Stuart McQuarrie of her distress over repeated strip searches.

Staff also allegedly failed to act on warnings from her family that she was vulnerable and had a history of self-harm.

She died at Polmont in June.

Her mother Linda Allan said: “Katie absolutely broke the law, that is not in dispute – Katie pleaded guilty and fully accepted she should be punished, that also is not in dispute.

“What we didn’t realise is that one impulsive decision would ultimately cost Katie her life.

“The hardest thing for us to accept is how devastatingly Katie was let down by those that were ultimately responsible for her care.

“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.”

The review would cover the prison service, women in custody and the provision of mental health services.

It would also look how to reform the Fatal Accident Inquiry system, which the family say is no longer fit for purpose as they can take years to complete.

Their lawyer, Aamer Anwar, added: “This is an issue not just to the families of the deceased, but prison staff who do not have the resources to deal with mental health provision as well as the aftermath of a suicide.

“The Allans – like many other families before them – have seen a culture of secrecy and defensiveness which is not interested in learning the lessons or accepting responsibility.”

Relatives of the drink-driving victim had urged the courts not to impose a custodial sentence.

They have been in contact with Katie’s family since her death and were at the campaign launch to offer their support.

Figures released by the campaign show there have been 130 deaths in Scottish prisons since 2014.

A spokeswoman for the the Scottish Prison Service said: “This is of course a set of very tragic circumstances and our sympathies are with all who have been affected by this sad death.

“All deaths that occur in Scottish prisons are subject to a Fatal Accident Inquiry and as such it would be inappropriate to comment further until this takes place.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of Katie Allan.

“We recognise the importance of providing a safe and secure environment for those in custody and an FAI is mandatory where someone has died in legal custody.

“It would not be appropriate to comment on the circumstances of this case pending the independent investigation which is being undertaken by the Crown and ahead of an FAI, which is an independent, judicial process that can help provide more information for families.

“Mr Yousaf is happy to meet with the family to listen to their concerns.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Family Handout / PA Wire.