Inmate took own life in Altcourse after row with prisoner

Inmate took own life in Altcourse after row with prisoner

A man who had repeatedly tried to take his life before being remanded into Altcourse killed himself in the jail.

Peter Robertson had a history of mental health issues and was initially monitored by staff.

But he was removed from a self-harm watchlist despite having never had a full mental health assessment during his time as an inmate.

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Prison bosses said they have completed an action plan issued following an official investigation into Mr Robertson’s death.

The 51-year-old was held in Altcourse after being charged with criminal damage with intent to endanger life in March 2018.

A probe by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman, which investigates all deaths in custody, found he had attempted to take his life on “several occasions” in previous months.

He was monitored under Prison Service suicide and self-harm prevention procedures but only for six days.

HMP Altcourse, Liverpool.
HMP Altcourse, Liverpool.

On the morning of May 7 he was sent to his cell after a row with another inmate.

The PPO report said: “Mr Robertson’s cellmate went to see him and said Mr Robertson was crying and wanted to be left alone.

“At around 11.30am, Mr Robertson’s cellmate returned to their cell and offered to collect Mr Robertson’s lunch for him but Mr “Robertson told him he would not need lunch as he was ‘going to do myself’.

“Mr Robertson’s cellmate did not think this was a serious threat and did not tell staff.”

He was then found hanging just after midday and, although he was resuscitated and taken to hospital, he died the following day.

The ombudsman, Sue McAllister, found: “I am not satisfied that Mr Robertson received adequate care for his mental health.

“He did not have a proper mental health assessment throughout his time at Altcourse, despite having obvious mental health issues.

“The clinical reviewer found that the mental health care provided at Altcourse was not in accordance with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines and the care Mr Robertson received was not equivalent to that which he could have expected to receive in the community.

“The investigation also found that there was a delay of four days in Mr Robertson receiving his prescribed medication and staff failed to monitor his physical health conditions as they should have done.”

Ms McAllister said she was “concerned” suicide and self-prevention procedures were closed before he received a mental health assessment and added: “I acknowledge that staff had no reason to consider that Mr Robertson was at heightened risk of suicide in the period leading up to him being found hanging.

“However, if he had received a mental health assessment and if wing staff had been more engaged with him, they may have had a better understanding of his risk of suicide.”

The PPO made a number of recommendations to bosses at the G4S-run complex.

They included that staff manage prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm in line with national guidelines, that all prisoners have an initial health screening in reception, that the mental health team ensure assessments comply fully with guidance and that NICE defined treatment options for patients with common mental health disorders are introduced.

In response to the report, made publicly available in November but compiled by the PPO in December 2018, Altcourse said it had taken action in connection with each of the recommendations.

Jail bosses added: “To support prisoners with mental health disorders, designated weekly mental health GP clinics, supported by the mental health team, were introduced in September 2018.

“In addition a number of mental health workshops are now also being provided, these include an anxiety management workshop.”

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