Justice Minister responds to Prisoner Ombudsman report on self-harm by Sean Lynch

Date published: 14 September 2016


Justice Minister, Claire Sugden MLA, has said the Prison Service will learn from the findings of an independent report into serious self-harm by Sean Lynch at Maghaberry Prison in June 2014.

Claire Sugden said: “This was an awful case for everyone concerned and I am deeply sympathetic to Mr Lynch and his family. 

“It is important to reflect on the independent assessment quoted in the Ombudsman’s report which said Mr Lynch’s condition was beyond anything that Prison Officers could cope with. While our Officers are trained to support and care for vulnerable prisoners, the Supporting Prisoner at Risk (SPAR) process was not designed to care for someone as challenging as Mr Lynch.

“There are significant issues to consider for both the Northern Ireland Prison Service and our health partners in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT).  The report has made a number of recommendations for both organisations and we will work with SEHSCT to implement these to provide support for vulnerable prisoners.”

Northern Ireland Prison Service Director General Sue McAllister said: “This report clearly illustrates the difficulty of managing someone with severe mental health issues in a prison. Prison officers support a wide range of challenging people in custody and play a pivotal role in keeping prisoners safely and securely. In my thirty years in prisons I have never come across a case of such extreme self-harm.

“While this incident took place over two years ago, it is important that the Service learns from the findings of the Prisoner Ombudsman.

“I want to thank Tom McGonigle and his team for the work they have undertaken to produce this comprehensive report and I hope that the recommendations to be taken forward will provide some comfort to Mr Lynch and his family that lessons have been learned from this tragic case.”


Notes to editors: 

1. The circumstances of the self-harm incidents by Mr Lynch (then aged 23) between 2 and 5 June 2014, were investigated by the Prisoner Ombudsman and his report is published today.

2. Media enquiries to the DOJ Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

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