Immigration Staff Decided Suicidal Man Just ‘Distressed by Toothache’ Days Before he Killed Himself

Immigration removal centre staff decided a man who told them he wanted to die was merely “distressed by toothache” days before he killed himself, a report has revealed.

He was among prisoners whose deaths were found to be preventable by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), which warned of spiralling violence and self-harm amid staff cuts and a flood of former “legal highs”.

The 28-year-old man known as Mr P was held in the centre for more than six months to be deported after being charged with assault.

“He told staff he was frustrated at being in detention and that he wanted to die,” the report said.

“The following day a review was held that lasted three minutes and monitoring was stopped after staff decided that Mr P’s distress was due to toothache and that he was no longer at risk as a dental appointment had been requested.”

The next day he became “highly distressed” and a nurse referred him to a mental health team but the man was not put on suicide watch.

He was found hanging in his room the following day and later died in hospital without regaining consciousness.

The PPO found that staff did not properly assess his risk of suicide, “stopped monitoring him prematurely” and did not consider the effect his prolonged detention was having.

The UK is the only country in Europe without a time limit on immigration detention in dedicated centres, which hold a mix of foreign offenders and failed asylum seekers.

Mr P’s death was one of three suicides in immigration removal centres in 2017-18, where there were also two deaths from other causes.

The PPO’s report noted that detainees “often face uncertainty about how long they will be detained and whether or not they will ultimately be removed from the UK, which can add to their anxiety and distress”.

Four people who were being kept under immigration detention in regular prisons also took their own lives in the year.

By Lizzie Dearden for INDEPENDENT
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