Ex-footballer threatened with jail over repeated suicide attempts
A suicidal ex-women's footballer who was arrested after threatening to jump off a bridge said she was left feeling 'like a criminal' after a court threatened her with jail.
Kimberley Macfarlane was charged with breach of the peace and told she could have faced a custodial sentence having “inconvenienced” the public with her suicide bid.
The 24-year-old tried to jump off a motorway bridge in January 2018, resulting in a court case the following month at Dunfermline Sheriff Court.
She had previously jumped off a bridge in August 2016, breaking two vertebrae in her back and leaving her in a brace for three months.
The court heard traffic had been brought to a halt twice in successive days and road closures had to be put in place after she threatened to jump from a motorway flyover.
Sheriff Craig McSherry admonished her but warned that if it became clear she still posed a risk of further offending, prison was an option.
He said: “A custodial sentence would at least mean that the public are not being inconvenienced in this way.”
But Kimberley, from Dunfermline, Fife, says she was left feeling “worthless” following her court case in February.
After being dissuaded from taking her own life, Kimberley was taken to hospital.
Kimberley said: “I had run away from the mental health hospital I was in then spent the night in the cells after I nearly jumped off the bridge. When we got to hospital it was hard, there was no one to talk to, then I was stuck in this room by myself.
“When I appeared in court the next day I was handcuffed to a G4S officer and taken to a holding room for four or five hours. If I was to hurt anyone it would only have been myself.
“I was the only person in my holding area, no one was telling me what was happening, and when I had to go to the toilet I was escorted.
“In the courtroom I burst into tears when my charge was read out. They said there would be a possibility of a custodial sentence - I didn’t really understand it at all.
“The sheriff must never have experienced poor mental health because he said I was being an ‘inconvenience’ because the road had to be shut. I felt like I was a criminal who had done something wrong - my mum saw me in handcuffs.”
Kimberley was charged with breach of the peace and allowed to go home, but her mental health was badly affected.
She added: “My solicitor said it might have been better for me to go to prison because I would’ve got the help I needed - he thought one day I might actually take my own life.
In a bid for change, Kimberley has become an NHS 24 Youth Form representative for Fife and spoken to her local MSP for Dunfermline, Shirley-Anne Somerville.
She said: “I spoke to my local MSP and I brought up police and mental health services.
“There’s a massive difference between being admitted to a hospital ward and taken to a police cell.
“Additional support should be required as people are often given better mental health care in jail rather than through the NHS - that’s actually quite worrying.
“It would be good to shape how things are done in the future.”
The former captain of Dunfermline Athletic Ladies suffers from a rare condition which has left her unable to urinate and in constant pain.
In 2015 Kimberley’s life was turned upside down when she underwent a nose operation for a sports injury and woke up unable to urinate.
She was hit in the face while playing football and opted to get surgery to mend her squint nose.
But while in hospital, she developed Fowlers Syndrome which affects one in a million women and can leave them unable to urinate.
Her GP had not even heard of the rare illness prior to her diagnosis and experts have been left baffled as to why it started following a nose operation.
She said: “I was only supposed to be in for one night but ended up spending three.
“When I woke up my nose felt better, but I couldn’t pee.
“I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but when I went into retention I was in agony with my bladder before they drained it.”
Having been active and healthy before, Kimberley left hospital with a catheter and since then has had to fight chronic pain and infections.
After hearing about her case, elite sports charity Support in Sport reached out to Kimberley and offered her free treatment.
They provided her with a free physio, who has been helping her with her back problems, and she will get access to a sports doctor and sports psychologist in January.
On December 4, Kimberley took part in a sponsored run at Hampden Park in aid of Support in Sport and the Express Group, a Fife-based mental health charity.
She said: “I almost didn’t want to turn up at Hampden because I thought I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
“Running around the Hampden pitch was only 0.3 miles and not that big a deal for a fit person, but for me - where I’ve come from - it’s massive.
“I never thought I would be able to run again.”
Kimberley has since raised £1,070 for the causes close to her heart.
She is remaining focused on the year ahead, trying to improve her fitness and is hopeful of playing football again.
She said: “I would say I’m turning a corner very slowly.
“I still have doubts, but I have a little voice as well that that says I can do it.
“This time next year, I hope things keep progressing and going forward, not backwards.
“My dream is to return to playing football.”