'Wide new inquiry' into youngest inmate death

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The Independent Online

A second inquest into the youngest person to die in a British penal institution in modern times will be a "wide-ranging inquiry" in how young people in custody are restrained, a coroner said today.

Adam Rickwood, of Burnley, Lancashire, was just 14 when he was found hanging at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, near Medomsley, County Durham, in 2004.

The teenager was held on remand at the centre 150 miles away from his home town, when his mother said regulations stated children should be kept no more than 50 miles from where they live.

Hours before he died the teenager had been struck painfully on the nose and carried into his cell by staff at the privately-run institution, an inquest jury was told.

The use of the "Nose Distraction Technique" (NDT) has since been deemed unlawful, the hearing at Durham County Council Offices in Easington was told.

Assistant Deputy Coroner Jeremy Freedman told the panel of five women and four men: "This will be a wide-ranging inquiry. You will hear about matters which do not impact immediately on the circumstances of Adam's death but because of the context of this death and the issues which it has raised, it is necessary for there to be a more extensive inquiry than would otherwise be the case."

He explained that a first inquest was held in 2007, but that the High Court ruled a second was necessary as the jury in that case was not told of Adam's removal from association with other pupils, the way he was carried and the use of a blow to the nose were unlawful.

Mr Freedman told the hearing: "It is agreed now by all the interested parties that what happened to Adam in the early evening of that night was both unlawful and illegal."

The jury heard Adam had refused to be punished by being put in his cell, and would not move from the association area.

Four members of staff used the Physical Control in Care method, which involved two people grabbing his arms, one placing both hands on his head and the other lifting his legs.

One member of staff, fearing Adam was about to bite, used NDT, and hit his nose, the inquest heard.

He was put in his cell, where hours later he was found hanging.