Call for national inquiry following second child custody death

Two teenagers who were serving time at young offender institutions in England have died in the space of a week.

Two teenagers who were serving time at young offender institutions in England have died in the space of a week.

Alex Kelly, 15, was found unconscious in his cell at HMYOI Cookham Wood in Kent on Tuesday night and died in hospital the following evening. Kelly, who had been serving a 10-month sentence for burglary, had been identified as being at risk of suicide or self-harm, according to the Prison Service.

He died just a day after 17-year-old Jake Hardy who died in hospital on Tuesday after being found hanging at HMYOI Hindley in Wigan on Friday.

Deborah Coles, co-director of the charity INQUEST, said the teenagers’ deaths should prompt decisive action by government.

“The deaths of Jake Hardy and Alex Kelly whilst in the care of the state are not isolated cases and raise ongoing questions about why we continue to send some of our most vulnerable children into unsafe institutions ill-equipped to deal with their complex needs.

“INQUEST has consistently argued for a holistic inquiry, in public, to examine the underlying systemic and policy issues. The failure of successive governments to hold an inquiry makes it impossible to learn from failures that have cost children their lives.

“We can only hope that this week’s events not only prompt parliamentary debate but decisive action by this government,” Coles said.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the deaths should be “a matter of major public concern”.

A Prison Service spokeswoman told the BBC: “Every death in custody or the community is a tragedy for families and has a profound effect on staff and other offenders. The National Offender Management Service is committed to reducing the numbers of deaths in custody.”

Both deaths will be subject to an investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. There will also be a serious case review, commissioned by the local safeguarding board.

Inform guide: Young offenders and substance use

Inform guide:  Fostering children in contact with the law

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