Sheriff calls for increased mental health provision in prisons after Dundee man dies in custody

Just after the prospect of mental health provisions being reduced is in the news, see previous post, we have a Sheriff’s verdict on services in Tayside. In particular, mental health training for prison nurses. Read the full Evening Telegraph article HERE

A sheriff has urged NHS and prison bosses to redouble their efforts to recruit mental health nurses.

Sheriff Alistair Carmichael made the comment in a report on the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the death of Dundee man Mark Smith.

The 23-year-old hanged himself while in custody in Perth Prison in October 2015. Despite the efforts of medical staff at Perth Royal Infirmary, Mr Smith, from Kirkton, couldn’t be saved.

Mr Smith had spent several years struggling with depression after his sister Kim died aged just 15 from an asthma attack in 2005.

Prison officers who gave evidence at the inquiry at Perth Sheriff Court heard Mr Smith was “unhappy” following an appearance at Dundee Sheriff Court to plead not guilty to seven charges, including one of domestic assault.

After bail was refused, Mr Smith was remanded in custody and was found dead in his cell several hours later.

Prior to this, the court also heard Mr Smith was upset following a phone call with his partner.

In his determination following the inquiry, Sheriff Carmichael did not believe there were any precautions that could have prevented Mr Smith’s death.

The sheriff added there were no defects in any system that could have contributed to the death.

NHS Tayside and the Scottish Prison Service were, however, urged to increase mental health training for prison nurses.

Sheriff Carmichael said: “I heard evidence that over half of prisoners have some sort of mental health history and I heard evidence that prisoners continue to take their own lives while in the care of the SPS. It is self-evident that if such a high percentage of prisoners have a mental health history, then SPS must be properly equipped to deal with this.”

He added: “I do not think that the lack of a nurse who was qualified in mental health nursing contributed to Mark Smith’s death.

“However, I strongly encourage SPS/NHS to redouble their efforts to recruit nurses who are qualified in the treatment of mental health, and to provide specific training in mental health to nurses who are in the SPS and who are not so qualified.”

Both NHS Tayside and the Scottish Prison Service were approached for comment, but the Tele has yet to receive a response.