‘Sharp object was already in my son’s cell’

Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey with Sean Lynch's father, Damien and Sean Lynch's sister, Kay Johnstone after meeting at Stormont on Wednesday.
Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey with Sean Lynch's father, Damien and Sean Lynch's sister, Kay Johnstone after meeting at Stormont on Wednesday.

The father of a Derry man who attempted to castrate himself in Maghaberry Prison this month claims the sharp object used by his son to mutilate his testicles was “already in the cell”.

In an exclusive interview with The Derry Journal yesterday afternoon Mr. Damien Lynch spoke openly and honestly about the impact the incident has had on his son Sean Lynch and his family.

“Our whole world has been turned upside down over what happened Sean,” said Mr. Lynch. “Our lives and Sean’s will never be the same again.

“I met visited Sean in Gransha Hospital last night {Wednesday] and he was, as you would expect, in a very bad way.

“Sean has told me that the sharp object he used to mutilate his testicles was already in the cell when he returned from Craigavon Hospital. If the prison staff had have been doing their job and looking after what was clearly a very vulnerable individual then I think Sean would still be able to see.

How could a sharp object such as the one Sean used be allowed into a cell where the prison staff knew a mentally unstable person was going to be.”

Mr. Lynch and his daughter, Kay Johnstone, travelled along with SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mr. Pat Ramsey to Stormont on Wednesday where they met with the Director-General of the Prison and the Prisoner Ombudsman.

Mr. Ramsey said the findings from the Ombudsman’s investigation must ensure that nothing like what happened to Sean Lynch ever happens again.

“I asked, very clearly, if what happened to Sean could have been prevented because, I believe, it could and should have been prevented,” said Mr Ramsey.

“First and foremost, Sean Lynch’s health must be a priority for the prison system’s health care authorities, and he must receive the care and support he needs and deserves.

“However, it is crucial lessons from this heartbreaking situation are learned so it never happens again - to Sean or to any other vulnerable person in custody.

“There must be clear protocols and codes of practice implemented by the Health Care Trust and the Prison Service, and the PSNI, to ensure nothing of this nature happens again and that anyone in custody who is vulnerable causes such a horrific level of self-harm.

“I am demanding that health care authorities in the Prison Service co-operate fully and share information about Sean Lynch’s case with the Ombudsman’s investigation to achieve clearly defined outcomes.”

Mr Ramsey added: “I have made a commitment to Sean Lynch’s father, Damien and to his sister Kay Johnstone that their quest for justice about what happened to their loved one is not prolonged and that nothing is brushed under the carpet. They deserve to know the truth about what happened to Sean because they do not want any other family to suffer the heartache and distress they have experienced.”

Sean (23) was on remand in Maghaberry Prison in June when he attempted to slit his own throat and wrists with a plastic knife. According to Sean’s father, his son was then taken to Craigavon Hospital where his wounds were treated but on release from hospital he was returned to the same prison cell.

It is claimed that Sean found a sharp object, believed to be a piece off a broken flask, and proceeded to cut at his genitals.

Again, Sean was given medical treatment and again, it is claimed he was returned to his cell by prison staff. It was at this stage that Sean then used his own fingers to gouge his eyeballs from their sockets and as a result is now permanently blind.

The incident is now under investigation by the Prison Ombudsman’s Office.

When contacted yesterday afternoon a spokesperson for the Prison Service of Northern Ireland said: “Prison Service has asked the Prisoner Ombudsman to investigate this matter. Until that independent investigation is completed it would be inappropriate to comment.”