ashley-smith-ont-inquiry

Allister Webster, a psychologist who treated teenager Ashley Smith, told the coroner's inquest his recommendations to treat her weren't followed by federal prison officials. (Courtesy of Ashley Smith's family)

The coroner's inquest into the death of Moncton teenager Ashley Smith heard on Wednesday from a psychologist who treated her at the Nova Institution in Truro, N.S. in 2006 and described how his advice was ignored by by prison officials.

Smith was first incarcerated at age 15. She was 19 when she died at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., in October 2007, after she tied a piece of cloth around her neck while guards, who were ordered not to intervene, stood outside her cell door and watched.

Dr. Allister Webster testified on Wednesday that he advised prison officials against moving Smith to the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon, Sask.

"The plan that I had developed in good faith was the one that was likely to be of benefit based on the experience that I had in working with complex cases," Webster said.

Webster added that inmates who are suicidal need stability and he believed he could help Smith by keeping her close to her family in Moncton and by using a treatment called dialectical behaviour therapy, which is a form of psychotherapy.

"She was obviously someone who had hope for the future when I first met her. I found her respectful in her dealings with me, I found her polite in her dealings with me," Webster said.

Smith transferred against recommendations

Webster said days after he drafted a management plan for Smith, she was transferred to Saskatchewan, which went against all of his recommendations.

He also told the jury that he did not condone the use of restraints on Smith.

Webster said she often had her hands cuffed behind her back during their meetings, with guards standing by, but Webster testified he never felt threatened by Smith.

"I found Ashley one-on-one to be articulate, to be bright, to be willing to talk, to have a sense of humour," Webster said.

"Particularly during the first time that I spent time with her she had lots of adolescence in terms of the bubbling personality, it was right there."

Webster testified that too many institutional transfers, too much time in segregation and too much time in restraints were all detrimental to efforts to help Smith.

Since the inquest began on Jan. 14, there has been testimony from Smith's mother, several guards and a prison supervisor who said they were uncomfortable with orders to ignore Smith and not enter her cell to remove ligatures around her neck as long as she was breathing.