Social services slammed over teenager’s death

An inquest into the suicide of a teenage asylum seeker has slammed Essex Council for failing to assess his needs or provide...

An inquest into the suicide of a teenage asylum seeker has slammed Essex Council for failing to assess his needs or provide him with co-ordinated leaving care support.

The jury’s verdict, returned this week, found that “serious failings” by the council “caused or contributed” to 18-year-old Abdullah Hagar Idris’s death.

Idris, originally from Darfur, was 15 when he was referred to Essex social services. On Christmas Day 2007 he hanged himself in Chelmsford prison, after serving six months for a first offence of affray.

Jurors at Chelmsford Coroner’s Court found Essex had failed to provide Idris with assessed care and support when he turned 18 and had never conducted a needs assessment, as required by the Children Act 1989.

The jury found that failure to comply with these statutory duties – which would have provided Idris with co-ordinated care and support and a personal adviser – “caused or contributed” to Idris’s troubled emotional state and subsequent suicide.

Helen Shaw, co-director of the charity INQUEST, said: “The failure of Essex social services to comply with the law and to provide Mr Idris with co-ordinated care and support is deeply alarming. Such a vulnerable young man should not have been left without a personal advisor, alone and afraid in prison.”

The jury also found that failings by HMP Chelmsford caused or contributed to Idris’s death, after finding that Idris – who had thought he was going to be released from prison on 7 January – was handed a deportation notice by a prison officer who had no training in immigration matters.

The jury found Idris was not made aware that he would have had the right to appeal and apply for bail, or that Home Office policy forbids the deportation of Darfuri nationals because of ongoing genocidal conflict there.

Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for Idris’s family, said: “The evidence we uncovered was that this young and clearly very vulnerable person was abandoned by all those who could and should have cared for him. It is crucial that lessons are learned so that this appalling tragedy is never repeated.”

Khalid Toka, Idris’s cousin, said: “Abdullah came to this country, as I did, fleeing the genocide of our people, seeking a place of safety. It is tragic that he took his life while in prison, abandoned by those who could have cared for him and explained his rights.”

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