Two prison warders to be charged over inmate’s suicide attempt

Police are expected to charge two prison officers over death of female inmate who attempted suicide • Both officials have been suspended • Opposition says minister must shoulder responsibility

Updated at 6:35pm with PN statement

Two prison officials are set to be charged with "crimes of an involuntary nature" in connection to a female prisoner's suicide attempt last June.

An inquiry into her death led to the magistrate identifying certain shortcomings from the two officials. According to a government statement, the warders concerned were immediately suspended and are now subject to proceedings before the Public Service Commission. 

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has requested a copy of the procès-verbal from the Attorney General's office.

The statement comes a day after journalist Peppi Azzopardi posted to Facebook alleging that the inquiring magistrate ordered that criminal action be taken against "three prison officials" on accusations of involuntary homicide.

"When will you publish the inquiry?" he questioned.

Kim Borg, the female prisoner, attemped suicide in June, but died at Mater Dei Hospital on 4 July where she was being kept for treatment. 

Prison authorities had said that the woman was found out of her senses inside her cell. She was seen to by the prison doctor and nurses before being taken to hospital for emergency care. 

At the time, the Correctional Services Agency stated that the prisoner was being continuously monitored by a psychiatrist, with the last visit having taken place a few days before the attempt. 

The psychiatrist did not flag any risk of suicide prior to the attempt, and in fact commented that the prisoner was doing good progress. 

One month after Borg's death, another inmate tried to kill himself, leading the Home Affairs Ministry to set up an inquiry board tasked with reviewing suicide prevention measures at the Corradino Correctional Facility.

University dean Andrew Azzopardi told MaltaToday that the charges corroborate worries over the culture of fear by which the facility is operated.

"The responsibility can't just fall on the two officials only. This is an indication of what is happening in prison," he said.

READ ALSOPeppi Azzopardi, University Dean call for public inquiry into prison suicide attempt

PN wants minister, prison director to shoulder responsibility

The Nationalist Party has called on the Home Affairs Minister and the prison director to shoulder responsibility for the latest development.

Home affairs spokesperson Beppe Fenech Adami said that while criminal proceedings against two prison officials should go ahead, these were not enough.

“The PN reiterates that the problem in prison must be addressed from top to bottom. It should be addressed by seeing that the officials answer for their deeds in court, but the highest officials, including the director, should shoulder all the responsibility for what happened and what is still happening,” Fenech Adami said.

He also accused minister Byron Camilleri of being unable to control the director. “Minister Byron Camilleri must shoulder political responsibility,” Fenech Adami added.

READ ALSOUpdated | Another suicide attempt in prison forces ministry to hold inquiry • Doubts cast on board's independence