Family speaks at inquest into jail death

Jodie Stephens

A NSW prison psychiatrist has broken down in tears while addressing the family of a mentally ill young man who died after self harming in his jail cell while awaiting deportation.

Sarah-Jane Spencer, a clinical director at Justice Health, told Glebe Coroner's Court that what happened to 23-year-old Junior Fenika in 2015 was "awful".

"I genuinely don't think he did mean to end his life. I think it was an absolute tragedy and I don't think he should have been held beyond his sentence," Dr Spencer told the inquest on Tuesday.

Fenika was found dead in his cell at Goulburn High Risk Management Correctional Centre (HRMCC) on the morning of September 12.

The inquest has been told he twice pressed the alarm button in his cell saying "I've slashed up" but was not checked on until more than 11 hours later.

His sentence for violence and property offences had expired in August but he remained in custody as the Immigration Department had cancelled his visa and he was due to be deported to New Zealand.

Fenika had lived in Australia since he was four years old.

His sister Sarah Togatuki said her "loving, caring" brother had fallen in with a bad crowd and made the wrong choices.

"He was still growing up and now he will never get the chance to improve his life," Ms Togatuki said.

He always told his parents not to worry and that he was doing okay, but she now knew he was simply hiding that he was struggling mentally and needing help.

"We as a family are trying to seek answers as to what help Junior needed mentally, physically and emotionally," she said.

The inquest has heard Fenika was suffering from a number of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, and Dr Spencer saw him in August 2015 after concerns were raised over his behaviour.

The inquest heard he exhibited paranoid and delusional thoughts, and his behaviour had changed in the context of increased isolation since being transferred to the HRMCC in March.

However, Dr Spencer said she didn't consider he was at an increased risk of self harm at the time.

She and another psychiatrist had about 200 patients on their case management list who were triaged by mental health nurses, and Fenika had refused two other consultations in the months before his death.

Dr Spencer said she didn't think he needed involuntary treatment when she did meet with him in August as he engaged well during her assessment and was agreeing to take medication.

The inquest continues.

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

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