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Lurgan man’s death in prison ‘could not have been predicted’, ombudsman rules

Daniel McConville

An Ombudsman report into the death of a Lurgan man in Maghberry Prison says the 22-year-old’s death could not have been predicted.

Mr McConville, a father-of-two died on August 30, 2018 – the day before he had been due in court.

He had been on remand for two months in Maghaberry charged with possession of cannabis resin.

Northern Ireland Prison Service Director General Ronnie Armour said he welcomed the publication of the Prisoner Ombudsman’s Report in relation to Mr McConville’s death.

In commenting on the report, Mr Armour said: “Daniel’s death was a tragedy, and I know it was deeply felt by his family and in particular his parents. I hope the findings in this report will bring them some comfort at a hugely difficult time.

Mr Armour continued: “The Prisoner Ombudsman concluded that Daniel’s death could not have been predicted and acknowledges that ‘the care provided by the Prison Service was appropriate based on the information and knowledge available to Prison Officers’.

“However, importantly the report also shines a light on both the multiple challenges faced by people who find themselves in prison and the demands placed on prison staff who care for them.

“Prison Officers are not qualified to make diagnosis around ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders which the Ombudsman also acknowledges are ‘not easily recognisable or visible’.

“In our three prisons we have almost 1,800 individuals, with over 30% having mental health issues, over 50% have addiction issues and, 53% have a history of self-harm.

“This illustrates the size of the challenge facing our staff and the doctors and nurses from the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust who deliver healthcare in our prisons.”

Mr Armour also welcomed the Prisoner Ombudsman’s acknowledgement that prison healthcare is significantly underfunded.

“The pressure this places on healthcare professionals and prison staff should not be underestimated,” he said.

“Collectively we are doing everything we can to support those in our care who are in crisis, but it clearly needs more resources to meet the increasing demands.”

Mr Armour added: “When someone dies in our custody that has a deep impact on our staff who support people often in very challenging circumstances. It is important to highlight that the Ombudsman concluded that she was unable to substantiate allegations of ‘mistreatment and bullying’ made in the aftermath of Daniel’s death.”

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