A prison officer assigned to monitor a 21-year-old who took her own life while serving a sentence has told an inquiry she was unaware of reports of her being bullied.
Heather Porter, 47, who acted as Katie Allan’s second personal officer during her time in custody at Polmont Young Offenders Institution in 2018, said she did not have access to a system where the incidents were recorded.
She was giving evidence on the third day of a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) at Falkirk Sheriff Court examining the circumstances of Ms Allan’s death at the prison in June 2018 and the death of William Brown, 16, also known as William Lindsay, there four months later.
The court was shown documents logging that in April 2018, intelligence had been received that Ms Allan and another inmate were being bullied by a third prisoner.
The document said the prisoner had taken tobacco and stamps from the pair.
Asked if she was aware of this situation, Mrs Porter replied: “We can’t access that intelligence.”
Advocate depute Leanne Cross then moved on to discuss a second receipt of intelligence recorded in June that year that Ms Allan was being threatened in relation to her losing her hair in prison through alopecia.
Mrs Porter said she was aware of Ms Allan’s condition but she told the inquiry she believed several young women occupying the same hall were “supportive” towards her.
“I remember Katie approached me about her hair loss,” she said. “I had several conversations about the stressors in her life.
“The majority felt sorry for her and were quite supportive,” she said.
Asked if she had ever heard any prisoners make derogatory remarks towards Ms Allan she replied: “I can’t remember anything directed at Katie. Young women fall out one day and are friends the next.”
Questioned about earlier evidence provided to the court that Ms Allan appeared to be “frightened” of certain prison officers, Mrs Porter said she always enjoyed a good relationship with her.
“I think Katie got on with most prison officers,” she said. “We had a good laugh. She approached me if she wanted a blether.”
Mrs Porter also noted Ms Allan was unlike most of the other women in Polmont, as she expressed regret for her crime and was trying to get a university degree.
She added Ms Allan also seemed worried about how people would treat her once she was released.
“Katie was unusual for a young offender,” Mrs Porter told the inquiry. “She really regretted her crime.
“She had a lot of concern about returning to the community and how she would be viewed. She was worried about how people would see her in the future.”
Earlier on Wednesday, a mental health nurse who assessed Ms Allan on her arrival at Polmont finished giving his evidence.
Alan MacFarlane told the inquiry he made no notes raising concerns about Ms Allan’s mental health when she was transferred from Cornton Vale prison.
The court heard she was initially held at Cornton Vale after she was sentenced and it was recorded in her medical notes she had previously self-harmed and suffered from alopecia and eczema.
A few days later she was transferred to Polmont, where Mr MacFarlane wrote in a risk assessment she “presented well” on arrival and he had “no concern” about her “based on her current presentation”.
He also wrote she had “no mental health issues”, although he went on to record she reported feeling “anxious” about being held in custody for the first time.
Asked why he did not raise any concern about her having previously self-harmed and having eczema and alopecia, Mr MacFarlane said he assessed how Ms Allan was “at the time of transfer”.
Despite telling the inquiry he could not recall assessing Ms Allan, he insisted he would have discussed any previous “issues” she had reported “as a matter of course”.
Mrs Allan previously told the inquiry there was evidence her daughter had been self-harming while in prison.
Ms Allan, a student of geology at Glasgow University, was found dead in her cell on June 4, 2018 while serving a 16-month sentence for drink-driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Mr Brown, who had been in care repeatedly, was found dead in his cell on October 7 the same year – three days after being remanded at Polmont because there was no space in a children’s secure unit.
The inquiry, before Sheriff Simon Collins KC, continues.
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