One second of insanity, one horrible determination, that was all it took. Who hasn’t had a kind of moments, closing dates when life seems to be operating easily after which, swiftly, a alternative made, or motion taken sends every little thing heading in a unique course completely?
And the repercussions can reverberate with dreadful impact. Take Katie Allan — sooner or later a highachieving college scholar, within the third 12 months of a geography diploma, working two part-time jobs to assist herself, utilizing her weekends to assist her grandparents round their dwelling, on the lookout for methods to make issues higher for these much less lucky than herself.
Then one night she went to a celebration; not a raucous college affair, a celebration with colleagues from the cafe the place she labored in Glasgow. She by no means meant to drive that night time; the truth is, she left her automotive on the cafe whereas she went to the pub and loved 4 pints of cider. However later that night she needed to return to the cafe to get the keys to her flat and when the enterprise proprietor’s daughter requested for a carry dwelling, Katie, who was 4 instances over the authorized restrict, recklessly agreed.
A split-second determination. However the influence of that second one summer time night in August 2017 is one thing that can strike on the core of each parent watching their child navigate maturity. For that night time Katie knocked down and injured a 15-year-old boy, a teenager the identical age as her personal brother Scott, who was out operating.
Fortunately the boy, who suffered a damaged ankle and fractured eye socket, recovered, however the accident was to precipitate a devastating chain of occasions that may culminate in tragedy ten months later when Katie took her personal life whereas in custody at Polmont Younger Offenders’ Establishment.
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Katie’s dying and the three months she spent behind bars are actually the topic of scrutiny at a Deadly Accident Inquiry at Falkirk Sheriff Court, together with the unrelated dying of one other inmate, William Brown, 16, also called William Lindsay, 4 months later.
5 and half years on from her dying, Katie’s parents, Stuart and Linda Allan, a hard-working, middle-class couple who by no means imagined they might find yourself right here, are battling for the Scottish Jail Service to be held accountable not only for what occurred to their daughter throughout her incarceration, however to be held accountable for all younger individuals in detention.
As Linda stated this week, Katie, who turned 21 behind bars, was “a fish out of water” at Polmont. Her love of books, her resolutely good manners, and the stream of tourists, all set her aside and made her the goal of bullies. “Go hold your self Katie, give us all peace”, was one merciless exhortation, which is simply what the damaged younger lady did. Sure, the jail service had an obligation to punish their daughter, they are saying. But it surely additionally had an obligation to guard her.
Linda, a former Scottish authorities advisor and an honorary medical affiliate professor at Glasgow College, and Stuart, a gross sales reporting supervisor, are clever, cheap individuals. They know their daughter deserves to be punished for a reckless second that might have been far worse.
No one is extra keenly conscious than them that it shouldn’t have ended on this means. “What’s so arduous about all this course of is that we now have spent 5 years combating to recollect our daughter earlier than all this occurred,” says Linda. “She was only a shining gentle — a fun-loving, clever, caring, younger lady.” The final three months of Katie Allan’s life, performed out in a courtroom this week, make for harrowing listening. Katie, a fantastic younger lady with a mane of blonde hair, was so careworn it triggered alopecia, main her to lose 80 per cent of her hair. Her pores and skin was uncooked from eczema and her physique lined in self-harm marks.
One jail warder held again tears as she instructed the listening to how she’d sneaked bandanas, in opposition to jail guidelines, into Katie’s cell, to assist masks her baldness and defend her from the taunts Chatting with the Mail, Katie’s parents recalled the pleased childhood of their bubbly little woman, who performed soccer each weekend and cherished nothing greater than throwing on a wetsuit and plunging into the chilly waters of Arisaig, close to Inverness, throughout the family’s annual journeys to their caravan.
“She was introduced up in a middle-class space,” says Linda. “However we had been at all times very acutely aware of our children being conscious that they had been privileged, realizing that there have been others that didn’t have the life that they had. “She was only a pleasure; if there was something that was detrimental it was that she typically put different individuals’s wants earlier than her personal.” Stuart and Linda purchased Katie a automotive, a sky blue Fiesta she named Chloe, however she was accountable for the operating prices.
Stuart, the sensible, protecting dad, says: “We’d at all times be saying “don’t drink and drive, don’t drink and drive” and we by no means thought she would. However then one second of insanity . . .” And there it’s once more. The second round which a life turns. It was approaching 10 pm on a night in August 2017 when two cops knocked on Allan’s door asking for Katie. There had been an ‘incident’, they stated. ‘Our rapid thought was that Katie had been harm,’ says Linda softly.
Stuart adopted the police (the identical two officers who would arrive on the door ten months later to ship the information of Katie’s dying) to his daughter’s flat and witnessed her despair as she was led away in handcuffs. She was stored in custody in a single day and appeared in court the next morning, however the parents of the defendant weren’t allowed within the courtroom as a result of the sufferer of the accident was a minor. “There was a door with graffiti on it and I used to be instructed that’s the place she would come out,” says Linda.
“So I sat on a wall awaiting ages and finally Katie got here out and I simply grabbed her . . . I simply held her and she or he sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.” Katie, says Linda, by no means shied away from what she had carried out, one thing evidenced by the truth that considered one of her first actions was to write down a letter of apology to the boy and his parents. “It’s fascinating,” says Linda.
“After the incident occurred, so many associates stated “that might have been our daughter”. Kids and younger individuals make silly errors and, you understand, she did. She broke the regulation and if Katie hadn’t been punished, I believe she would have discovered that troublesome; she knew she needed to be punished and she or he was stuffed with regret.”
The extent of punishment, nonetheless, was one thing none of them had been ready for. At assembly after assembly, the household was instructed that whereas a custodial sentence was attainable, it was extremely unlikely. However regardless of glowing letters from college workers and people who knew Katie, regardless of even a letter from the sufferer’s household pleading for clemency, Katie, who admitted harmful driving whereas over the drink-drive restrict, was sentenced to 2 years in jail — decreased to 16 months due to her responsible plea.
Linda, who was sitting behind her daughter, recollects the sharp consumption of breath that appeared to ripple throughout your entire courtroom because the sentence was delivered. Linda’s exceptional composure momentarily crumbles as she recollects: “Katie turned spherical to me and stated “assist me Mum” as they had been handcuffing her and taking her away. “Stuart and I left court instantly. I used to be crying and one of many companions from the authorized agency got here out and stated “Don’t fear, it’s 16 months however it is going to be halved and she is going to solely serve 4 in custody, she will probably be out in time for her subsequent semester at college.
“We had been instructed nothing, not what jail she was going to, nothing, she was simply actually ripped out of our arms, that’s what it felt like.” As these decided parents know all too painfully, the nightmare had solely simply begun. Katie’s tiny in a single day bag (packed simply in case) contained just one set of underwear, no sanitary provides; the toiletries she had packed weren’t allowed and the one footwear she had had been the good black footwear she had worn together with her new black trouser go well with.
From the beginning Katie’s vulnerabilities ought to have been apparent. Initially held at Cornton Vale jail, her admission notes recorded that she had beforehand self-harmed and suffered from alopecia and eczema. However in her evaluation on arrival at Polmont, the inquiry heard this week that none of this was recorded.
“No psychological well being points,” was what the admitting nurse recorded, together with noting Katie reported feeling “anxious” about being in custody for the primary time. It was every week earlier than Stuart and Linda subsequent noticed their daughter. In the event that they had been horrified at having to be patted down and having their mouths looked for illicit drugs, seeing the change of their daughter was a lot worse. “Once I gave proof I stated she was like a rabbit within the headlights,” says Linda.
“And that’s what she was, she was so involved in regards to the influence of what was occurring on us that she would smile and say she was effective. “However what we noticed was totally different. Instantly her eczema had flared up and she or he was scratching her arms, inside a few weeks her hair loss began. “To see your stunning 20-yearold daughter’s blonde hair fall out in clumps, eyebrow, eyelashes . . . that was arduous.” Katie was despatched books to proceed her diploma research however was instructed she had too many and needed to give them away.
Stuart inspired his daughter to profit from any alternatives there have been to remain occupied so she took a geography class; he chuckles as he recollects the category content material — colouring in a map. “It was such a mixture of totally different individuals on her ground,” he says. ‘There have been some violent individuals and Katie being, you understand, from a working, middle-class background was pinpointed. She was focused as being a snob.” What’s abundantly clear is how palpably Katie wasn’t a snob.
She made associates with an older lady prisoner (some grownup feminine prisoners are held at Polmont), and baked a cake for her within the jail kitchens. The lady’s crime? Homicide. The coed’s tight-knit household made certain there was a stream of tourists, each two to a few days, to buoy her spirits. However the final go to — a Sunday afternoon, with Katie’s brother Scott, is one Linda will always remember. “The minute we acquired into the visiting corridor, I knew one thing was flawed.
She appeared dreadful, exhausted, she had darkish shadows underneath her eyes. She was virtually vacant. I keep in mind considering, have you ever taken drugs, Katie?” At first Katie, who was a month away from being launched on dwelling detention, insisted she was OK. After which the rattling burst. “She burst out crying. I imply sobs,” says Linda. ‘She instructed me that there had been a struggle, a bodily struggle that day, and I stated you’ve simply acquired to remain out of the way in which, Katie.
“Then I requested why she appeared so drained and she or he stated she hadn’t slept for 3 nights, that among the women had been shouting nasty issues . . .” Encouraging a weak, acutely distressed, sleep-deprived younger lady to take her personal life arguably goes nicely past ‘nasty issues’. It’s fairly clear that for Katie, circumstances had grow to be insupportable. Linda was so frightened about her daughter’s psychological and bodily state, she spoke to a jail officer earlier than leaving.
“Don’t fear” she was instructed. Solely later did Linda study that the jail’s response to Katie’s anguish was to inform her she can be moved to the grownup wing of the jail. If it wasn’t so heartbreaking it might be laughable. Katie was discovered hanging in her cell the next morning. Katie left a short closing notice during which she stated: “I’m sorry it has come to this. I’ve allow you to each down, and Scott as a sister. I cherished you very a lot.”
The whole lot Linda and Stuart have carried out since their daughter’s dying has been about understanding what occurred and about attempting to ensure that it could’t occur once more. Lawyer Aamer Anwar, who’s representing each them and the household of William Brown, has demanded Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf take away Crown immunity from the Scottish Jail Service, which exempts the service from prosecution for deaths.
As Linda says: “We’re not asking for very a lot, simply that prisons in a civilised society are held to account. What occurred to Katie might occur to any younger one who makes a silly mistake, a flawed alternative, this might occur to anybody’s child.”