Real Lives – A Child Failed by the System


Joseph Scholes was just 16 years old and only nine days into his
prison sentence when he took his own life at Stoke Heath Young
Offender Institution (YOI) in Shropshire. 

Not only had he experienced domestic violence and alleged male
rape at the hands of a member of his father’s family, but he
was also a vulnerable young boy, suffering from mental health
problems including self-harming.  Before he was sentenced to the
maximum term possible for his age and crime after playing a minor
role in a street robbery to which he pleaded guilty – Joseph
attempted suicide.

Despite recommendations from a Youth Offending Team that he
should be given a community sentence or failing that a term in a
Local Authority Secure Children’s Home or, at worst, a Secure
Training Centre, Joseph was placed in Stoke Heath YOI. 

Nine days later, Joseph hanged himself having torn out his own
fingernails. He was found with the word “mum” scratched onto his
leg, which he had done to himself prior to sentencing.

Community Care’s Back on Track campaign is
calling for a reduction in the use of custody particularly in cases
such as that of Joseph where children are assessed as vulnerable.
With young people like these it is essential that community
alternatives are used, otherwise tragedies like the death of Joseph
and so many others like him, will continue to happen.

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