Families attend hearing ahead of joint probe into Polmont prison deaths

Katie, 21, and William, 16, died in separate incidents at the young offenders institution within months of each other in 2018.

Families attend hearing ahead of FAI into deaths of Katie Allan and William Lindsay at Polmont Contributed

A preliminary hearing will be held on Tuesday ahead of a joint fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the deaths of Katie Allan and William Lindsay, who both took their own lives at Polmont Young Offenders Institute.

Katie Allan died aged 21 at Polmont near Falkirk in June 2018 while serving a sentence for a driving offence.

William Lindsay was being held at the same place when he died aged 16 in October 2018.

The families of both youngsters have expressed frustration at how long it has taken for an inquiry to get under way.

Scotland’s prosecution service confirmed in May that it had begun the process for a joint FAI into the separate deaths.

Following Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, an evidential hearing is expected to commence in January next year.

Katie Allan

Katie AllanSTV News

Katie Allan died aged 21 at Polmont Young Offenders Institution near Falkirk in June 2018 while serving a sentence for a driving offence.

She was a geography student at Glasgow University when she was jailed for 16 months after pleading guilty to drink-driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Katie had drunk four pints of beer before trying to drive home from a pub in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire in August 2017.

She pleaded guilty at Paisley Sheriff Court to causing serious injury by driving dangerously and driving at more than four times above the legal alcohol limit.

William Lindsay

William Lindsay.Family handout

William Lindsay took his own life 48 hours after being sent to Polmont on remand, four months after Katie’s death.

William spent most of his life in the care system – being in and out of care at least 19 times since the age of three.

What is a fatal accident inquiry?

The purpose of a fatal accident inquiry includes; determining the cause of death; the circumstances in which the deaths occurred, and to establish what, if any, reasonable precautions could have been taken, and could be implemented in the future, to minimise the risk of future deaths in similar circumstances. 

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

This inquiry will explore the circumstances of both deaths, with particular focus on the Scottish Prison Service ‘Talk To Me’ strategy in relation to the prevention of suicide in prison.  

What has the Crown Office said about the FAI?

Solicitor General, Ruth Charteris KC, said she hopes the FAI will provide the families with the answers that they are looking for.

Speaking in May, she said: “I met with Katie’s mother and father and William’s mother and brother and having listened to them talk about their experiences I fully appreciate that the wait for these proceedings has been too long and distressing for them. 

“My hope is that this inquiry provides them with the answers that they are looking for and helps to prevent similar deaths in the future. 

“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has introduced a number of reforms designed to reduce the time it takes to investigate deaths, improve the quality of such investigations, and improve communication with bereaved families.

“As part of these reforms, a specialist custody deaths investigation team has been set up to focus on cases such as those of Katie and William.”  

And what about the prison service?

A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson said: “An inquiry requires to take place following every death in custody so that the circumstances in which a life is lost whilst in the custody of the state are properly investigated and understood.

“Where the lives lost are two young individuals, both with no previous experience of custody, the need to investigate and understand the circumstances in which those lives were lost is especially acute.

“The Scottish Prison Service are committed to supporting this Inquiry.

“We will not be making any additional public comment at this time.”

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