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Death of a detainee leads to changes to medical practices in prison

Jasińska v. Poland  | 2010

Death of a detainee leads to changes to medical practices in prison

The prison authorities had indications as to the deterioration of R. Ch.'s state of mental health and should legitimately have raised the question of the risk that he might try to end his life.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, 1 June 2010

Background

A young man was left in the care of his grandmother after his mother died and his father was imprisoned. As a boy he suffered from meningitis, was treated for psychosis and depression and made repeated suicide attempts. He was later convicted of theft. Despite the man’s history of suicidal behaviour, a court held that he did not need to serve his sentence in a special institution.

Whilst in prison, his mental health got worse. He took an overdose of his medicine and died.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court ruled that there had been clear failings in a system that had allowed a fragile prisoner, with deteriorating mental health, to get hold of a lethal dose of his medication and commit suicide.

The court ruled that the authorities had failed in their duty to protect the man’s life.

Follow-up

New rules were introduced to help prison staff prevent detainees committing suicide. These stated that strong drugs should only be given to prisoners in single doses. These included an Ordinance and an Instruction issued by the Director General of the Prison Service in August 2010; and an Ordinance adopted by the Minister of Justice in December 2010.