AS many as 12 suicides may have taken place within Scottish prisons this year, it is claimed.

Lawyer Aamer Anwar made the claim yesterday as the family of Katie Allan, who died by suicide in Polmont Young Offenders Institution, challenged Humza Yousaf to address “catastrophic failings” in the system.

The 21-year-old’s parents Stuart and Linda told the Justice Secretary things must change to protect vulnerable people in custody.

The meeting also follows revelations about 16-year-old William Brown, who died 48 hours after being sent to Polmont on remand. His death came just four months after Katie’s.

Anwar, who is supporting the Allan family, claims there may have been as many as 12 suicides in Scottish jails this year.

While 26 deaths have been recorded behind bars in 2018, only one had been formally noted a suicide.

He said: “We heard today that half of the deaths so far they believe are in relation to natural causes.

“That means approximately 12 deaths in Scottish prisons are potentially suicides.

“We are not at the end of the year. If that is the case then this is the worst rate of suicides for over a decade.”

The Scottish Prison Service rejected claims that the way deaths are recorded masks the number of suicides. All deaths in prison are subject to a fatal accident inquiry, with the spokesman saying one death this year had been confirmed as a suicide because an inquiry had taken place.

He stated said: “We don’t describe the circumstances of any deaths in custody, we publish that a death in custody has occurred immediately after the next of kin have been informed.”

Mr Allan said: “It’s so important that people who go into the care system and people who go into prison, they are treated with respect and humanity.

“We have witnessed what happened to Katie, we don’t want that to happen to anybody else.”

He went on: “We wanted to make clear to Yousaf that the tragic experiences Katie endured within the Scottish Prison Service are not unique to Katie.

“You only have to look at the recent tragic death of 16-year-old William Lindsay, who spent his life in and out of care, only to end up taking his own life whilst in Polmont prison within 48 hours of being placed on remand.”

Mr Allan concluded: “We believe what we are trying to do in Katie’s memory for her and so many others will be a fitting legacy for our daughter.”

Yousaf said: “Any death of a young person is a tragedy for the individual and their family.

“I am determined that appropriate early actions are taken to ensure the safety and well-being of young people in custody.”

He added: “We are determined as a government to ensure that we are taking a cross-government approach to the support that young people have within the criminal justice system.”