Bullying reports at Polmont YOI not shared with mental health team, inquiry told

Reports of bullying at a young offenders institution were not shared with mental health workers by the Scottish Prison Service, an inquiry has heard.

A fatal accident inquiry at Falkirk Sheriff Court is examining the circumstances of student Katie Allan’s death at Polmont YOI in June 2018, and that of William Brown, 16, also known as William Lindsay, there four months later.

Ms Allan (pictured), 21, took her own life on June 4 2018, a month before she was due to be released. Self-harm marks were found on her arms and thighs in a post-mortem examination.

Mental health nurse Jo Brogan told the inquiry on Thursday she was not aware of “intel” regarding reports of bullying as only Scottish Prison Service (SPS) staff could access it.

She said Ms Allan was referred to her “informally” by a prison officer.

Ms Brogan described the Glasgow University student as a “delight” and “very resilient”, and said she was under the impression Ms Allan had not self-harmed since the age of 14.

She told the inquiry she had no concerns about self-harm and she often saw Ms Allan wearing vests.

She said she talked with Ms Allan about their shared experiences of alopecia, which Ms Brogan said was “stigmatised”.

Ms Brogan said she worked with the Allan family to get a synthetic wig into Polmont, and wanted to get an NHS prescription issued for a wig so Ms Allan could choose one after release without having to pay.

The mental health nurse said she “wouldn’t have hesitated” to make a referral to the SPS “Talk To Me” strategy if she had concerns about Ms Allan, describing it as a “risk assessment in regards of risk to self or risk to others”.

No Talk To Me referral was made for Ms Allan, who died four weeks before her release date.

Ms Brogan said “intel” about bullying would have only been accessible by SPS staff, and when she first met Ms Allan on April 27 she was unaware a report had been logged on April 12.

The witness told the inquiry: “Intel reports were for SPS staff only, we wouldn’t know what they were in for or how long the sentence was, or if they were on remand.”

Antidepressants would not have been considered for issues with Ms Allan’s “mental wellbeing”, due to her relatively short sentence, the inquiry was told.

Ms Brogan said: “I think if Katie had been on a longer term sentence, I think we would have considered an antidepressant to help with K’s mood, we wouldn’t have considered it at the time due to the length of sentence, we wouldn’t have been able to monitor the efficacy.”

She said Ms Allan had “very clear plans” to continue her studies, but had branded her long-term boyfriend “an arsehole” when Ms Brogan asked about relationship issues.

Ms Brogan said she felt Ms Allan “tried to contain her emotions” despite being “very engaging”, and she had no concerns about the student self-harming.

The witness said: “I think previous risk always informs future behaviours but it had been an isolated incident when she was 14 so I didn’t have any concerns about self-harm for Katie. We deal with prolific self-harming within Polmont.

“I think Katie was an absolute delight, I think she was very open, she was very resilient, she was very capable, she was very engaging with the process, she listened, she discussed, she shared, in particular to her alopecia. I think she tried to contain her emotions and her emotional responses.”

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