BY TOBY PORTER
A watchdog has criticised a prison after a suicidal teenager, originally arrested for stealing sweets, was found dead in his cell.
Osvaldas Pagirys, 18, from Croydon, was failed by staff at HMP Wandsworth who did not “satisfactorily acknowledge his vulnerability,” said acting Prison Probation Officer (PPO) Elizabeth Moody. Mr Pagirys was found hanged unconscious in his cell by prison staff 37 minutes after he rang his bell for help in the segregation
He died three days later on November 14, 2016. The prison has previously been criticised by inspectors for its slow response to inmates requiring help –cell bells should be answered within five minutes. It was concluded by the PPO that Mr Pagirys’ life may have been “saved had staff responded sooner”.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This tragic and appalling case highlights many of the worst failures of the prison system.” His death was the third suicide at the prison in 2016.
Ms Crook said: “Wandsworth is one of many prisons up and down the country that is being asked to look after too many people with too few staff.
It is shocking that frightened and vulnerable teenagers are still being held in such conditions.” Mr Pagirys admitted he had attempted suicide at a disciplinary hearing for knife possession on October 22 because he feared leaving behind his family. Mr Pagirys was facing extradition to Lithuania after it was found he was the subject of a European arrest warrant.
Police had regarded him as a “high risk” of suicide but after numerous assessments at Wandsworth without an interpreter it was ruled he was not suffering significant mental health issues despite staff reporting his suicidal tendencies.
His family said in a statement issued by his solicitor Andrew Frederick: “There were repeatedly errors in the procedure for monitoring Osvaldas, who was clearly at risk of self-harm. We hope that lessons have been learnt but it is devastating for us that this is at such a cost.”
The PPO concluded that in Mr Pagirys’ case, the clinical care he received was “not equivalent to that which he could have expected to receive in the community”.