Boy's suicide sparks call to review restraint methods

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The Independent Online

A report into the treatment of the youngest child to die in custody called for an urgent review into restraint techniques which allow children to be hit in the face.

Adam Rickwood, 14, hanged himself with his shoelaces while on remand at the Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in Co Durham in 2004. The teenager was restrained with a controversial "nose distraction technique" which involved him being hit in the face. The blow left his face "covered in blood" and Adam said he felt his nose had been broken, according to the report.

A long-awaited investigation published yesterday by the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board made a number of recommendations, including that pain distraction techniques be reviewed "as a matter of urgency". The study also called for a national review of the use of restraint at secure units.

Adam had earlier written to his mother, Carol Pounder, 39, saying he would kill himself if he was not removed from the unit. Mrs Pounder, who has three teenage daughters, said she was delighted at the report but doubted it would result in positive change for young detainees. She said: "I have seen video footage of the guards attacking Adam and it is horrific.

"It goes far beyond restraint. It is simply bullying. In truth it is just punching children on the nose. They shouldn't be allowed to do something like that to a child."

The teenager had been sent to the centre on remand, in July 2004, and just under a month later he was dead. At about 6.30pm on the evening of 8 August, Adam was with three other youths at the centre. The group became rowdy and were ordered back to their rooms but Adam refused. He was forcibly carried to his room by three male residential staff and lashed out.

Adam was warned twice that if he failed to co-operate staff would use the nose restraint – a technique involving a sharp and painful strike to the base of the nose. He failed to stop and was hit in the face. Hours later he was found hanged in his room.