A second inquest into the death of the youngest person to die in custody begins today after a high court battle. Adam Rickwood was just 14 when he died in August 2004.Not due to him being restrained by staff, you’ll note.
He was found hanging in his cell in Hassockfield Secure Training Centre (STC), County Durham, hours after he was restrained by staff.
The first inquest heard evidence that Rickwood had been identified as a vulnerable child with a history of self-harm and suicide attempts.Which meant that he should have been subject to certain checks and procedures.
Was he? Wasn’t he?
On the day of his death he had been forcibly restrained by four staff for refusing to go to his cell when ordered to do so.Yes, and..?
A painful restraint technique called "nose distraction" – which has been variously described as a squeezing, tweaking, flicking or karate-like chop to the nose – was used against him.And was that a legal technique? Or, in hindsight, has it been determined that it’s not to be used?
The ‘Guardian’ doesn’t say. What the ‘Guardian’ does infer, however, is that this is…well, you tell me:
Hours later he was found hanging. Hassockfield is a privately run institution, operated by Serco.Hmmm…
At the first hearing, in 2007, the coroner refused to allow the jury to consider whether the use of force was lawful.And that didn’t sit well. Not well at all.
The jury returned a verdict saying that he intended to take his own life.And if that one comes to the same conclusion? What then? Best out of three?
Backed by the pressure group Inquest, Adam's mother, Carol Pounder, sought a judicial review of the proceedings and in January 2009, Mr Justice Baker found that the coroner acted unlawfully, and that the physical interference with Adam was a breach of STC rules and an assault on him. He quashed the verdict and ordered a new inquest.
The inquest is expected to examine, among other issues, the circumstances in which restraint can be used against children and the type of restraint that can be used.I doubt it's going to recommend new ones. Just take away what few actually remain, and leave the staff left with just harsh language. But not too harsh...
Carol Pounder, who will give evidence today, said her aim was to find out the full truth about what happened to her son and for those with responsibility to be held to account.But not, you'll note, those who raised the little cherub. Just those who had to deal with him once he'd become a problem.