Failed by the sys­tem and dead in jail by 16

●A vul­ner­a­ble teenager took his own life within 48 hours of be­ing sent to Pol­mont - the fourth such death within two years

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By DANI GARAVELLI

A vul­ner­a­ble teenage boy killed him­self at Pol­mont Young Of­fend­ers’ In­sti­tu­tion within 48 hours of be­ing re­manded de­spite hav­ing been flagged up as a sui­cide risk, The Scots­man can re­veal.

It is un­der­stood the Scot­tish Chil­dren’s Re­porter Ad­min­is­tra­tion (SCRA) and Glas­gow’s chief so­cial work of­fi­cer had wanted Wil­liam Lind­say, also known as Brown, to be put in a se­cure unit, but there were no places avail­able.

The SCRA had also wanted the case against Lind­say, 16, who spent his life in and out of care, to be kept within the chil­dren’s hear­ing sys­tem be­cause of his vul­ner­a­bil­ity, but was over-ruled by the crown of­fice.

Lind­say ap­peared be­fore Glas­gow Sher­iff Court on Thurs­day, 4 Oc­to­ber charged with pos­ses­sion of a knife, as­sault and breach of the peace.

The sher­iff re­manded him to Pol­mont where he was found dead the fol­low­ing Sun­day.

Lind­say’s sui­cide has caused wide­spread con­cern within the SCRA, Glas­gow City Coun­cil, the Scot­tish Prison Ser­vice (SPS) and the Scot­tish Govern­ment.

“This boy should never have been any­where near Pol­mont,” one source said. “He was vul­ner­a­ble and in need of men­tal health sup­port. How is it pos­si­ble for every­body to agree that a 16-year-old should not go to a jail and yet for him still to end up in jail?”

Last week, Linda and Stu­art

In Lamb­hill Ceme­tery, not far from the red­brick chapel and cre­ma­to­rium, there is a re­cently filled lair. Its bound­aries are marked by four words spelled out in blue flowers: SON, BROTHER, NEPHEW, UN­CLE. The sur­face is strewn with wilted bou­quets and and, at the top, a can of Rock­star has been care­fully po­si­tioned, tipped on one side as if it is about to be drunk. There is no head­stone as yet. But when it is erected it might well read: Here lies Wil­liam Lind­say. Oc­to­ber 2001 – Oc­to­ber 2018. Failed By the Sys­tem.

Wil­liam was just 16 when he killed him­self while on re­mand at Pol­mont Young Of­fend­ers’ In­sti­tu­tion. His death – which took place within 48 hours of his ar­rival and af­ter his vul­ner­a­bil­ity had been flagged up to the ser­vice – is a trav­esty. But then, Wil­liam’s whole life was a trav­esty. Born into a trou­bled fam­ily, he was a “clas­sic prod­uct” of the care sys­tem – a boy moved at least 19 times in his short ex­is­tence; a boy who seemed fated to fall through the cracks.

An ex­am­i­na­tion of Wil­liam’s life from cra­dle to grave is a tes­ta­ment to the en­dur­ing im­pact of ACES (Ad­verse Child­hood Ex­pe­ri­ences) and of the way dys­func­tion­al­ity is handed down – like a ter­ri­ble be­quest – from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. It demon­strates the dif­fi­culty of break­ing the cy­cle of poverty and the sys­tem’s in­ad­e­quacy when it comes to sav­ing our most dam­aged chil­dren.

Be­fore ever Wil­liam was born into a home blighted by do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, drugs and poor men­tal health, his four (half and full) sib­lings had come to the at­ten­tion of so­cial ser­vices, and at one month old he was placed on the child pro­tec­tion reg­is­ter.

Be­tween the ages of three and 16, he had spent time liv­ing with fam­ily mem­bers, fos­ter par­ents, in chil­dren’s homes and se­cure units. In his mid teens he was a se­rial ab­scon­der who had at­tempted sui­cide on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, taking val­ium and walk­ing reck­lessly in the path of cars.

He had also been in trou­ble with the po­lice, at one stage taking part in a mini-riot at the in­fa­mous Four Cor­ners in Glas­gow City Cen­tre.

“There were con­cerns about him car­ry­ing a knife, but it was mostly for his own pro­tec­tion,” says one source who worked with him dur­ing that pe­riod. “His men­tal health was never good. He was more of a dan­ger to him­self than he was to other peo­ple.”

A foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion into Wil­liam’s back­ground re­veals his prob­lems ran gen­er­a­tions deep. His own mother, Chris­tine, was brought up by her grand­par­ents both of whom had died by the time she was 18.

In 2004, af­ter re­peated re­ports that Chris­tine was not cop­ing with her chil­dren, Wil­liam was placed with a longterm fos­ter carer. He stayed there un­til 2007, when he and his sis­ter Chloe were sent to live with their pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther.

Within a year, that place­ment had bro­ken down and he moved in with an­other fos­ter fam­ily where he seemed to set­tle well; by now Chris­tine was be­gin­ning to ad­dress her own prob­lems and direct con­tact be­tween the two had re­sumed.

In 2010, how­ever, Wil­liam be­gan to dis­play “chal­leng­ing be­hav­iours”. Two more sets of fos­ter car­ers ended their place­ments be­cause they could not deal with the risk he posed. On one oc­ca­sion he sim­u­lated cutting the throats of the cou­ple look­ing af­ter him and threat­ened to kill him­self. He was ten at the time.

And so – with a sort of bleak in­evitabil­ity – Wil­liam was moved into Ba­lik­in­rain Res­i­den­tial School in Bal­fron in Stir­ling­shire. At Ba­lik­in­rain, he would some­times trash his room, break his be­long­ings and tam­per with elec­tri­cal sock­ets.

But, poignantly, there is

also this: at bed­time, when he strug­gled to set­tle, he would re­vert to child­hood be­hav­iours singing nurs­ery rhymes and stroking his own hair un­til he fell asleep. He be­came close to one of his key work­ers, who then left abruptly – an­other blow to his self-es­teem.

Wil­liam was moved so many times over the next few years, it is im­pos­si­ble to record them all here. What is clear is that by the time he was 14, his men­tal health had de­gen­er­ated to the point where he was act­ing up at school and at­tempt­ing or threat­en­ing to end his own life.

And by the fol­low­ing year, he was get­ting drunk, us­ing drugs and al­co­hol, con­stantly ab­scond­ing from Airth Chil­dren’s Unit in Moss­park and be­gin­ning to get him­self in trou­ble with the po­lice.

The of­fences he al­legedly com­mit­ted around this time in­cluded shoplift­ing, ob­struc­tion, pos­ses­sion of a knife and breach of the peace. On one oc­ca­sion, when de­tained for breach of the peace, he banged his head against the cell wall un­til he was taken to hospi­tal.

This type of be­hav­iour con­tin­ued for the next two or three years; as a re­sult he was placed in se­cure units on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

In the last few months of his life, Wil­liam’s be­hav­iour had been sta­bil­is­ing. He had moved in with his mother, whose own men­tal health had im­proved, and he was work­ing part-time in a car wash.

Although he was still un­der a com­pul­sory su­per­vi­sion or­der, and prone to low moods, his name had been re­moved from the Vul­ner­a­ble Young Per­sons’ reg­is­ter. Bright, so­cia­ble and with a good sense of hu­mour, he was ac­tive in his com­mu­nity and en­joyed skate board­ing and cy­cling as well as com­puter games. It is not clear what caused Wil­liam to walk into Sara­cen po­lice sta­tion with a knife on 2 Oc­to­ber. Those who know him best, how­ever, be­lieve it was a cry for help; a means of get­ting some­one to act.

As a re­sult, he was de­tained in the po­lice sta­tion. Of­fi­cers then con­tacted so­cial work ask­ing for him to be placed in se­cure, but there were no places.

He was then trans­ferred to Ste­wart Street po­lice sta­tion where he picked up two fur­ther charges of po­lice as­sault and breach of the peace.

It is un­der­stood both the re­porters and the so­cial work depart­ment wanted him to be treated as a child in need of pro­tec­tion in ac­cor­dance with best prac­tice. That’s why they wanted him to be placed in a se­cure unit and kept within the chil­dren’s hear­ing sys­tem.

Had he been kept within the hear­ing sys­tem, there would have been other op­tions, in­clud­ing the au­tho­ri­sa­tion of se­cure care.

In­stead he was re­mended to Pol­mont where he be­came the fourth young per­son within a year to kill him­self. The cir­cum­stances of his death will be the sub­ject of a Fa­tal Ac­ci­dent In­quiry, but that could take up to four years.

At his home in Pos­sil­park, his mother Chris­tine and sis­ter Chloe are dev­as­tated. On her man­tel­piece is a school pho­to­graph of her son, with his red hair combed and in his smart ma­roon blazer. Chris­tine sobs as she says she is not ready yet to talk about his death. But while I’m there she makes it clear that – like the SCRA and the so­cial work depart­ment – she be­lieves his death was avoid­able. She has writ­ten “Jus­tice for Wil­liam” on his Face­book page.

Her son was buried on 19 Oc­to­ber. It was a wellat­tended fu­neral, with lots of young peo­ple, and his cof­fin was borne in a horse­drawn car­riage.

In Lamb­hill Ceme­tery, at the re­cently filled lair, lie a se­ries of colour­ful cards, in­clud­ing one marked “Son”.

They have been placed there by mourn­ers in hon­our of his 17th birth­day, which would have been the fol­low­ing day.

Wil­liam was a son, brother, un­cle, nephew, but he will never now be a fa­ther. The cards sym­bol­ise the op­por­tu­ni­ties Wil­liam should have had, the adult life he should have lived. Their cor­ners are furl­ing in the au­tumn breeze; the words of sor­row they ex­press are fad­ing in the rain.

Wil­liam Lind­say took his own life within 48 hours of ar­riv­ing at Pol­mont. He was 16.

Wil­liam Lind­say was buried at Lamb­hill Ceme­tery in Glas­gow just days be­fore what would have been his 17th birth­day

Wil­liam Lind­say was just 16 when he took his own life while he was be­ing held in Pol­mont Young Of­fend­ers’ In­sti­tu­tion, above, his short live a story of sys­tem fail­ure

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