Joint FAI into the deaths of Katie Allan and William Lindsay at Polmont

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

Joint fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of Katie Allan and William Lindsay at Polmont Contributed

A joint fatal accident inquiry (FAI) is to be held 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 Young Offenders Institution 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 on Tuesday it has begun the process for a joint FAI into the separate deaths.

The first preliminary hearing will be held on July 11 at Falkirk Sheriff Court. An evidential hearing is then expected to commence on January 8 for around six weeks.

Lawyer Aamer Anwar – acting on behalf of William’s brother and Katie’s parents – said William and Katie’s families hold the Scottish Prison Service and health service “directly responsible for their deaths”.

“We note that the solicitor general acknowledges the distress to the families caused by both deaths and the length of time taken for the Crown Office to get it to this stage,” the statement read.

“But for the families, the passage of time has allowed a cynical Scottish Prison Service to operate behind a veil of secrecy, covering up systemic failures & preventable suicides. 

“Nearly five years have passed since Katie and William’s death. In that time, there have been two lord advocates, two solicitor generals and three justice ministers all apologising for delays.

“Since then, William’s mother – Christine – has died and prisoners are now twice as likely to die in prison in 2022 as someone was in 2008.

“The SPS hides behind empty words of condolences in the comfort that no matter how a prisoner dies on their watch, they will never ever be held to account – Crown immunity from prosecution effectively gives them a ‘licence to kill’.”

Katie Allan

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.

Katie AllanSTV News

Katie’s parents said: “This Sunday will be the fifth anniversary of our daughter’s death. We will spend the day reflecting on Katie’s life and all she meant to us.

“Katie’s life, like many other young people, meant nothing to the Scottish Prison Service, if it had she would not be dead.  

“For five years we have known we will have to relive every minute of the horror our daughter faced at her FAI.

“The Crown office accept that despite credible and reliable evidence for a successful criminal prosecution they cannot prosecute the SPS due to crown immunity, they accept our domestic law is not fit for purpose, how can we accept this?”

William Lindsay

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

William Lindsay.Family handout

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.

Christine Lindsay, William’s mother, told STV News in 2021 that Polmont “was a death sentence” for her son

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 is the Crown Office saying about today’s development?

Solicitor General Ruth Charteris KC said: “I acknowledge the deep anguish that the deaths of Katie and William have brought to their families.

“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.”  

Procurator Fiscal Andy Shanks, who leads on fatalities investigations for COPFS said: “The Procurator Fiscal Service has thoroughly investigated the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Katie Allan and William Lindsay.  

“The lodging of the First Notice enables FAI proceedings to begin under the direction of the Sheriff.   

“An FAI will allow a full public airing of all the available evidence and allow the families and other interested parties to be represented.

“The evidence will be tested in a public setting and will be the subject of judicial determination. “The families and their legal representatives will continue to be kept informed of significant developments as court proceedings progress.”

And what about the prison service?

A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson said: “While it would not be appropriate to comment on upcoming proceedings, we recognise the profound emotional distress experienced by families in any instance when a loved one dies in custody.

“The welfare and safety of those in our care is a priority for the SPS. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons wrote there had been ‘considerable strides made in healthcare’ for young people at HMP & YOI Polmont, following an independent review in 2019.”

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Jamie Greene MSP said: “It is shocking that five years on, the families of William Lindsay and Katie Allan are still waiting for a Fatal Accident Inquiry to take place and give them the answers they deserve.

“It is unacceptable that inquiries take years to complete, prolonging the suffering of loved ones far longer than necessary.

“My own Victims Law proposes to fix that by imposing mandatory timescales for completing FAIs, as well as exploring the possibility of expanding the scope under which they are held.

“It’s just one of a range of proposals would put victims and their families back at the heart of our justice system, and offer justice and closure to grieving relatives.”

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