The mother of a young offender who died in custody has launched a scathing attack on the Youth Justice Board, accusing the government body of “failing miserably” in keeping children safe.
Yvonne Scholes, whose 16-year-old son Joseph committed suicide at Stoke Heath Young Offender Institution in 2002, said the Boards’ achievements were “less than paltry when weighed against their massive failures”.
She added: “The Youth Justice Board is the overseer of a system where more than 80 per cent of children go on to reoffend. It is a dangerous smokescreen for ministers to hide behind.”
At a meeting in parliament this week, Scholes and the parents of other children who have died in youth custody called for a public inquiry to encompass the 29 deaths that have occurred since 1990.
The government has so far refused to hold a public inquiry into the case of Joseph Scholes and the decision is going to the Court of Appeal next week.
Imitaz Amin, the uncle of Zahid Mubarek, the young offender who was battered to death by Robert Stewart – his racist cellmate – at Feltham in 2000, supported Scholes’call.
Following the publication of the damning report on the public inquiry into Zahid’s death last week, Amin called for an end to the “secrecy” of prison culture.
In a statement sent to the meeting, the mother of Gareth Myatt, 15, who died after being restrained by staff at Rainsbrook secure training centre in 2004, said she had “no answers” two years after her son’s death.
Jean Elphick, whose son Sam Elphick, 17, who was found hanging in his cell at Hindley Young Offender Institution in September last year, told the meeting his death “should not have happened”.
She said: “It would have been his eighteenth birthday a month ago, but we couldn’t celebrate it. We can’t celebrate anything any more – this has just destroyed us.”
Carol Pounder, the mother of Adam Rickwood, who was the youngest person ever to die in penal custody at the age of 14 in 2004 at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, asked: “Why won’t the Prison Service allow a public inquiry into my son’s death? What are they covering up?”
Karen Price, the mother of Gareth Price, 16, who hanged himself at Lancaster Farms Young Offender Institution last year, said there was “a lot to answer for” over her son’s death.
Elphick said: “We need to know such deaths will not happen again for anyone else’s children.”