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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