FAI to be held into 'tragic' death of teen after adult psychiatric ward stay

Harris Macdonell died at just 19 years old after previously being placed in a ward in Huntlyburn.

FAI to be held into ‘tragic’ death of Harris Macdonell after adult psychiatric ward stay in Scottish Borders Jane MacDonnell

A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) is to be held following the death of an autistic teen who had been placed in an adult psychiatric ward in the Scottish Borders.

Harris Macdonell took his own life aged 19, on August 18, 2020 – following a stay in the Huntlyburn ward – in what has been described as a “tragic” death.

Procurator Fiscal Andy Shanks, who leads on fatalities investigations for COPFS, said:  The Lord Advocate has decided that a discretionary Fatal Accident Inquiry should be held into the causes of this tragic death to ensure that there can be a full public hearing of the facts of the case.

“The Procurator Fiscal has now started work to initiate this inquiry and there are a number of legal steps which must be taken before it can commence.

“Harris’ family will be kept informed of what will happen next.”

Harris’s mum, Dr Jane Macdonell, told STV News she hopes the process can bring “considerable improvements” to specialist mental health care facilities for young people.

She said: “It has taken a long time to go through the process with the Crown Office and getting agreement for a discretionary FAI.

“We are pleased that it will now go ahead but it will continue to be hard going for me and the rest of the family.

“At the end of this, we are looking for some considerable improvements to specialist mental health care facilities for young people as well as recognition that education of health staff about how to manage young people with autism needs addressed.”

In 2021, the family of Harris set up the Harris Trust, a registered charity that was created to raise awareness regarding mental health issues in young people with autism

A statement on the website for the charity read: “After Harris died a JustGiving crowdfunding page was set up by the family.

“Our experience was that in the Scottish Borders there was a significant lack of knowledge amongst health and education professionals around mental health issues in young people with autism/neurodiversity.

“There was no structured peer support for young people with mental health/neurodiversity difficulties and no awareness of the potential for better engagement with autism-trained teachers/coaches using activities that interest the young person – for Harris this was music and sport.”

Unlike criminal proceedings, FAIs are inquisitorial in nature, and are used to establish facts rather than to apportion blame.

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