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Mental health care in WA prison examined

AAP logoAAP 29/08/2016

An inquest into the death of a young Aboriginal man in custody is examining how his mental health issues were monitored and treated.

Jayden Bennell, 20, died at Casuarina maximum prison in March 2013 after hanging himself in a cleaning storeroom.

Counsel assisting the coroner Toby Bishop said in his opening address on Monday that Mr Bennell was released from Acacia Prison in April 2012 after serving a nine-month custodial sentence and the Department of Corrective Services knew he had a history of psychiatric illness.

Upon his release, Mr Bennell spent 24 days in the community before being remanded at the maximum security Hakea Prison where his mental health was monitored.

Mental health reviews continued through to October 2012, where it was noted that although Mr Bennell had refused to take medication, his mental state was showing signs of improvement, Mr Bishop said.

Mr Bennell was sentenced in October 2012 to two years behind bars and had his sentence backdated to June 2012, with parole eligibility in June 2013.

The following month, Mr Bennell was transferred to Casuarina Prison and maintained his refusal of medication.

On March 6, 2013 there was a prison muster at 12pm where prisoners were required to stand by their cell door and were counted by guards, and Mr Bennell was recorded as being present, Mr Bishop said.

But Mr Bennell did not attend the afternoon session of a program he was supposed to be participating in.

The prison telephone log records show Mr Bennell tried to call one of his brothers just before 1.30pm, but did not get through and that is the last record of him being alive.

At 3.15pm, the afternoon prison muster was held and Mr Bennell could not be found.

About 45 minutes later, a prison officer found Mr Bennell in the storeroom but attempts to resuscitate him failed.

The inquest is now examining the quality of treatment and care of Mr Bennell's mental health while he was incarcerated, what the requirements were to account for Mr Bennell between the two musters and why the cleaning storeroom was unlocked during the day.

Mr Bennell's mother, Maxine, said in a statement on Friday that the system failed to protect her son.

"I believe that if you break the law you have to face the consequences but the consequences should not be death," she said.

Ms Bennell described her son as "beautiful, talented and vulnerable" and said her other sons would never have their older brother to protect them and guide them.

"I won't see him grow into a man and become what I always knew he could be," she said.

"I have lost part of my heart, part of my soul and the pain will never go away."

Mr Bennell was the grandson of playwright and boxer Eddie Bennell who was involved in establishing the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody more than 25 years ago.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

Multicultural Mental Health Australia

Local Aboriginal Medical Service available from

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