A FOREIGN national remand prisoner took his own life after becoming depressed at the thought of spending years away from his family, according to the prisons watchdog.
In her report published today, prisoner ombudsman Pauline McCabe says Binghua Li, who spoke practically no English, was confusedover the timing and expected outcome of this trial.
The 36-year-old had been remanded in custody to Maghaberry in June 2008 – oneof 48 Chinese nationals taken into custody around the same time following a major PSNI investigation into cannabis factories.
He had spent only six months in Northern Ireland prior to being detained and was found hanging in his cell in March last year.
Mr Li found life in prison extremely difficult and had been prescribed anti-depressants by the prison doctor. His mental health is said to have deteriorated following a court appearance two weeks before his death when he heard how his trial would be further delayed.
Mrs McCabe makes a total of nine recommendations she hopes will improve the way the prison service deals with inmates showing signs of mental health problems.
Releasing her report, Mrs McCabe said: “My primary aims are to ensure that any concerns put forward by the family have been taken into account and to make recommendations which will help prevent similar deaths in future at Maghaberry or elsewhere in the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
During the investigation it was discovered that Mr Li and not taken his prescribed medication in the 24 hours prior to this death and had expressed concerns to fellow Chinese inmates about the consequences for his family of him not being able to pay off the £18,000 he borrowed to come to Northern Ireland.
The ombudsman added: “Following a thorough investigation I am making nine recommendations to the Prison Service and its South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust partners which concern the use of translation services, a revision of practice in recording systems and arrangements surrounding the management of prisoners with mental health issues.”
Justice Minister David Ford said: “While the prisoner was well cared for in prison, the report has identifed some learning points.
“The Prison Service has many strengths and dedicated staff and undertakes much positive work in serving and protecting the community.
“Nevertheless, this tragedy shows that there is always room for improvement, and both I and the director general are determined to ensure that the learning points identifed from this tragic death are taken on board in an effort to reduce the risk of future reoccurrence.”