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Forensic psychiatrist testifies at coroner's inquest into death of Soleiman Faqiri

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Soleiman Faqiri denied having a history or symptoms of mental illness when he was admitted to an Ontario jail, but even non-medical staff could quickly see signs that he was unwell, a forensic psychiatrist told a coroner's inquest Wednesday.

In health assessments conducted when he arrived at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., in early December 2016, Faqiri reported no history of psychiatric issues or medication, and marked "no" on a checklist of symptoms for mental illness, the inquest into his death heard.

It's not uncommon for people in his situation to misrepresent themselves, and it's not clear whether he did so intentionally or by mistake, said Dr. Gary Chaimowitz, a forensic psychiatrist who reviewed several health records related to the case.

"What’s apparent is that Mr. Faqiri denied all the symptoms but there’s obviously an opportunity to observe the individual directly as well," said Chaimowitz, who heads the forensic psychiatry program at McMaster University and the forensic program at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton.

Hours after the assessment, correctional staff began taking notes on Faqiri's behaviour, writing that he was banging on the door of his cell and shouting throughout the night, and clogged the toilet, flooding his cell, around 5 a.m., the inquest saw.

Faqiri was "clearly agitated," Chaimowitz said. While that could just be a display of frustration over being detained, "it could also be consistent with someone who’s very unwell,” he said.

The records show staff observed more concerning behaviours over time – Faqiri at times was naked, hiding in the corner of the cell, and continuing to yell and bang on the door, the inquest heard.

"Now some of the elements of being unwell seem to be much more clearly obvious," Chaimowitz said.

The inquest has heard Faqiri, 30, was arrested in early December 2016 after allegedly stabbing a neighbour while in a mental-health crisis.

Faqiri died after a violent struggle with corrections officers on Dec. 15, 2016, less than two weeks after he was taken into custody.

The inquest has heard his condition worsened while he was at the jail but he never saw a psychiatrist, and he was deemed too unwell to attend a video assessment of his fitness to stand trial.

On Tuesday, jurors heard from Canada's former correctional investigator, who gave them an overview of the correctional system.

Howard Sapers told them that going into custody can cause significant disruptions to health care because people no longer have access to their doctor and may not be able to get the same medication. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2023

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