Government refuses public inquiry into Joseph Scholes’ death

    The government has refused a recommendation from the joint
    committee on human rights to hold a public inquiry into the death
    of 16-year-old young offender Joseph Scholes, it emerged today,
    writes Maria Ahmed.

    In their response to the committee’s third report on
    deaths in custody published today, the government reiterated it
    would not be holding a public inquiry.

    Since Scholes died just days into his two year sentence at Stoke
    Heath Young Offender Institution in March 2002, campaigners
    including over 100 MPs have urged the government to hold the
    inquiry.

    The joint committee’s third report on deaths in custody
    submitted to the government said: “There has never been a
    public inquiry into the death of a child in custody. We recommend
    that the Home Secretary order a public inquiry into the death of
    Joseph Scholes in order that lessons can be fully learnt from the
    circumstances that led up to his tragic death.”

    The coroner of Shropshire also recommended that the government
    should carry out a public inquiry.

    But the government concluded that it would be “unlikely to
    bring to light any additional factors” not already covered by
    previous investigations by the Prison Service, Trafford Youth
    Offending Team and the Youth Justice Board.

    However, in their report published today the government said it
    would address the coroner’s concerns on the appropriateness
    of the sentence, operational matters such as the effectiveness of
    pre-sentence and placement procedures, and whether the juvenile
    estate is able to provide fully for vulnerable young people.

    Director of Inquest Deborah Coles slammed the government’s
    report as an “extremely dishonest” response.

    She highlighted that it had “completely failed” to
    mention the recent deaths of young offenders Adam Rickwood, 14,
    Gareth Myatt, 15 and Gareth Price, 16.

    Coles said: ”The report shows the government’s
    worrying complacency – all they are doing is talking about
    what they are doing to reduce deaths in custody without seeing that
    the lessons are not being learned. “

    The Scholes family are currently engaged in a legal battle to
    get a public inquiry.

    Yvonne Scholes, Joseph’s mother, said today: “We
    will continue to do everything we can to overturn the Home
    Secretary’s decision.”

    A vigil will be held outside Minshull Street Court in Manchester
    on 15 March to mark the third anniversary of the date Joseph was
    sentenced.

    It will be attended by the mother of Adam Rickwood, who became
    the youngest person to die in custody last year at Hassockfield
    Secure Training Centre in Country Durham last year.

    Community Care last year campaigned for improvements to
    the youth justice system and called for a public inquiry into
    Joseph’s death.

     

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