A jury has returned a verdict of accidental death in the inquest of 15-year-old Gareth Myatt, who died after being restrained by three staff at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre.
The jury at the inquest, which ended yesterday, made sweeping criticisms about the conduct of the Youth Justice Board, saying it had failed to adequately assess the safety of the restraint used on Gareth.
The jury concluded that a failure by the Home Office and Youth Justice Board to medically review the since banned seated-double embrace technique, part of the Home Office-approved physical control in care restraint system, had contributed to Gareth’s death at the privately-run centre in 2004.
Gareth is said to have died from “positional asphyxia” after choking on his own vomit.
The jury said there had been inadequate monitoring of the use of restraint at Rainsbrook by the YJB and Rainsbrook’s managers, Rebound.
Following the verdict, Gareth’s mother, Pam Wilton, said: “What I have heard has deeply upset, angered and shocked me. I loved Gareth so much and my life will never be the same. When he went to Rainsbrook I expected him to get the help he needed. At the end of all of this he is still dead and no-one has been held accountable.”
Deborah Coles, co-director of campaign group Inquest, which has backed Gareth’s case, called the verdict a “shameful indictment” of the Youth Justice Board’s failure to protect children in custody.
She said: “The jury accept that these failures directly caused Gareth’s death. His death was entirely preventable and was a disaster waiting to happen.
“The evidence that has been presented to Inquest has revealed a catalogue of errors that have penetrated to the heart of the conduct of the YJB, the privately-run institutions in whose care vulnerable children are entrusted and the individual custody officers employed to deal with vulnerable children on a daily basis. As a result of these gross errors the safety of children within secure training centres can be said to have been put at risk on a daily basis.”
YJB chief executive Ellie Roy said: “Gareth’s death was a tragedy and our thoughts are with Pamela Wilton, his mother, and family. The inquest into his death covered a wide range of issues that will be addressed by us, the Ministry of Justice and Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre. We are waiting to receive the coroner’s full verdict, but it is clear that everyone working with young people in custody will need to learn lessons from this tragic case.”
Inquest is seeking a meeting with the new Minister of Justice, Jack Straw to urge him to withdraw legislation to extend staff powers of restraint in STCs, which is due to come into effect on July 6.
Inquest into Gareth Myatt’s death begins
Inquests to cast light on use of restraint in the secure estate