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THE suicide of a young Polish man at a Home Office detention facility was fuelled by a catalogue of failings from the officers charged with his care, an inquest found today.
Marcin Gwozdzinski, 28, was found hanging in a cell at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow in September 2017.
A jury at West London Coroner’s Court has now probed his death and concluded today that authorities had missed “significant warning signs” and there was a “systemic failure.”
Ten factors were identified as “contributing” to his demise, including the premature ending of a suicide watch days prior to his death.
That decision was taken in a three-minute mental health review by untrained staff from the Home Office sub-contractor Mitie, which runs Harmondsworth.
The jury also noted Mr Gwozdzinski’s “prolonged period of detention” as a possible cause.
There is no time limit on immigration detention and he had spent nine months awaiting deportation at the time of the incident.
His family said in a statement at the end of the inquest that they were “angry” about his death.
“We are disappointed that many mental health referrals were made but Marcin did not see anyone and we are disappointed that the resuscitation was messed up.
“There were people without training deciding whether Marcin posed a risk to himself.
“When Marcin died he had no idea when he was getting out and nor did we, it’s worse than prison.
“At least in prison you know there is an end.”
The family’s solicitor, Clair Hilder from Deighton Pierce Glynn, said: “They call them Immigration Removal Centres but Harmondsworth was designed as a Category B prison and detainees on Marcin’s wing were locked up for 13 hours a day.
“The inquest revealed serious gaps in staff training, inadequate risk assessments and a lack of care.”
She hit out at Mitie, which she said had failed to implement the lessons of its own internal review into the death over 18 months later, leaving her with “little confidence.”
She added: “It is important that the Home Office steps in to ensure detainees are safe.”
The family’s barrister, Taimour Lay from Garden Court Chambers, commented: “Whilst it was a private company who failed to keep Marcin safe, it was the Home Office who ultimately detained him.”
And death-in-custody campaign Inquest caseworker Natasha Thompson said: “Marcin was desperately crying out for help in the last few days of his life. His pleas, as well as those of other detainees who recognised his distress, were ignored, leading to his tragic and preventable death.
“Marcin was one of 11 people to die in immigration detention in 2017, a record high. Successive inquests have highlighted fundamental failings in treatment and care as well as unsafe systems and practices. These deaths are evidence of the unnecessary harms caused by immigration detention and illustrate the human cost of UK immigration policies.”
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