A High Court judge has accused the Youth Justice Board of a “gross failure” to meet its duty to supervise restraint in private secure training centres and questioned whether it should retain the responsibility.
Justice Nicholas Blake made the remarks as he ordered a new inquest into the death of Adam Rickwood, who was found hanging in Hassockfield STC hours after being restrained for refusing to go to his room in 2004.
In a judicial review, Blake said the first inquest, which had delivered a suicide verdict, should be quashed because it had failed to rule on the legality of the restraint used on Adam.
He concluded that the restraint was unlawful because statutory rules governing the running of STCs forbade staff from restraining trainees for disobedience.
Paul Bowers, the YJB’s director of secure accommodation, told the inquest that the board had advised STCs they could use force to ensure “good order and discipline” in line with the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
But Blake emphasised it was the STC rules that defined permissible restraint. He said Bowers’ evidence amounted to a “serious breach” of the YJB’s duty to monitor restraint.
John Drew, chief executive of the YJB, said: “The Youth Justice Board notes today’s judgement issued by the High Court. As we have said before, Adam’s death was a tragedy. The YJB is committed to working with everyone within the youth justice system to make custody as safe and effective as possible and improvements and considerable investment to achieve this have been made.
“As the High Court decision has allowed the original coroner’s ruling, into Adam’s death, to be over turned and a new inquest to be opened, the YJB is unable to comment any further.”