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Prisoner allowed to take his own life despite telling police he would do it and prison deciding he was a suicide risk

Zach Banner warned police that he would  take his own life
Zach Banner warned police that he would take his own life

A mum has spoken of her loss at the death in prison of her son as it was revealed staff there had not been told he had repeatedly warned police he was going to take his own life.

Kim Banner says she is devastated at the suicide of son Zach, 22, who was on remand at Inverness jail. Following a Fatal Accident Inquiry, a sheriff has issued recommendations that information be shared better between police, health staff and the prison service.

The FAI heard that, while in police custody, Mr Banner told officers and nurses he intended to take his own life. These warnings were not passed on to prison staff. A nurse at the jail decided he was suicidal after his transfer but, the next day, a doctor decided he was not a risk to himself. He killed himself the next night.

Kim, of Alness, Ross-shire, said: “We have read the sheriff’s report and are taking it in. We are completely devastated by Zach’s death and miss him every day.”

Sheriff Christopher Dickson’s FAI report, published last week, states police held Mr Banner after arriving at an address in Alness with a search warrant on December 28, 2017.

They spotted him next to a quad bike with a can of petrol. He splashed petrol over himself and told officers: “I’ll do it.”

He was taken to Inverness police station where he told an officer “he was depressed following Christmas, did not mean to get petrol on the officers and had been attempting to douse himself with petrol to set himself on fire to kill himself”.

Mr Banner, who had previous convictions and had been in prison before, was remanded in custody on December 29 on charges including housebreaking, theft, breach of bail and the attack on two officers. He was found unconscious in his cell in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2018. He was pronounced dead two days later.

Sheriff Dickson, in his recommendations, said health boards and the prison service should review the “contents and layout” of a form known as the Personal Escort Record used when a prisoner is moved.

He said this should include “in particular, information in relation to the risk of suicide, self-harm and risk of harm to others”.

Deborah Coles, director of death in custody campaign group Inquest, said: “This is a tragic case of a highly vulnerable young man, with multi-agency failings to protect someone who had warned about his clear suicidal intent.

“The findings of the FAI are by no means unique to this case and point to a systemic failure to act on the learning of other deaths.”

Chief Superintendent Garry McEwan, of Police Scotland’s Criminal Justice Services division, said: “We note the findings and recommendations of the FAI and have already taken steps to enhance the communication between custody suites and prisoner transfer services when an individual is moved from one of our facilities to court or prison.”

NHS Highland said: “We will work with Police Scotland and others as they consider whether our pilot system for inter-agency information sharing should be rolled out across Scotland.”

Scottish Prison Service said: “We are consulting with Police Scotland and others to review how information is passed between agencies.”