Editorial Comment: There must be a better way

Adam Rickwood became the youngest person to die in custody in modern times while on remand at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in 2004. He was 14-years-old.

Hours before hanging himself Adam had been restrained by staff using a “nose distraction technique” for refusing to go to his room.

Last week, the coroner’s court jury exonerated the staff involved and agreed that the STC had been the right place for him. The verdict: suicide.

The inquest still raises two important issues however. Firstly, vulnerable young people must be placed in appropriate settings. Children who have mental health problems shouldn’t be in custody.

Adam had a history of self-harm. The inquest found that social services should have provided more detail on this to the Youth Justice Board before making its placement decision. In the bigger picture, we’ve got to challenge this shift towards STCs away from secure children homes – recognising the latter’s advantages.

Secondly, we need to tackle the use of restraint. An inquiry by the Howard League earlier this year called for the implementation of one certified set of techniques backed by more scrutiny and monitoring.

The Youth Justice Board rejected the proposals, but the coroner in Adam’s inquest has now called for a review of the use of restraint. It must only be used as a last resort. How many more like Adam, or Gareth Myatt, must die before improvements are made?

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 Mike Broad

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