Northern Ireland

Joseph Rainey: Vulnerable Hydebank prisoner 'failed' by authorities

Joseph Rainey
Image caption Joseph Rainey, 20, died in hospital after an attempt to take his own life at Hydebank Wood

A jury at an inquest into the death of a west Belfast man has found that errors made by both the NI Prison Service and South Eastern Health Trust contributed to his death.

Joseph Rainey, 20, died in hospital in 2013 of injuries sustained in Hydebank Wood Detention Centre.

Ten days earlier, he had attempted to take his own life.

Mr Rainey had been found hanging in his cell before he was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

He was later treated at an intensive care unit at Belfast City Hospital, where he died.

Contributing factors

The jury found that Mr Rainey died by his own hand, which is what he intended, and that the balance of his mind at the time was disturbed.

It found issues such as name calling, the breakup of a relationship and the death of his grandfather were contributing factors in his "feeling of loss and despair".

Image caption Mr Rainey was a prisoner at Hydebank Wood Detention Centre

The jury unanimously agreed that errors or omissions by both the prison service and health trust also contributed to Mr Rainey's death.

They were found to have failed in terms of policy, adequate training of staff, particularly in relation to suicide and self-harm prevention.

The jury also concluded that recommendations and issues of concern previously raised by Northern Ireland Ombudsman were not actioned by the prison service.

Lessons to be learned

The coroner addressed the Rainey family, who wept in the public gallery as the foreperson of the jury delivered the findings.

He said: "Unfortunately we cannot bring back your son, but hopefully we can learn from the tragedy."

He said he believed improvements had been made, but more learning was to be done, and told the court he planned to write to the justice minister about the issue.

The coroner said "the stark reality is that if one person is determined to take their own life, I'm not sure there's any one policy in place to stop that happening, but we can ensure all opportunities are there to try and reduce that risk while someone is in care of the state".

Closing the inquest, the coroner said that what lay at the heart of this was drugs, which is where Mr Rainey's issues stemmed from.

He said drugs were a "scourge which continues to inflict Northern Ireland" and which was an "all too depressing picture".

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