Suicide victim 'had drug problem that was ignored': Teenagers on remand should never be locked up on their own, says mother of man found hanged in cell

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The Independent Online
KARL TOUT, 18, arrived at the Moorland young offenders' institution near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, one afternoon in January, writes Jason Bennetto.

He had his tea and played Monopoly with some other inmates. At 11.30pm staff checked his cell. Half an hour later they found him hanging from the window bars with his prison shirt shredded into a makeshift noose.

He had not been convicted of any crime but was awaiting a court appearance on charges of assault and theft after an argument with his girlfriend.

Karl was the first of 11 people aged under 21 to have hanged themselves in British penal institutions this year. Three have committed suicide in Moorland. The highest previous death total at this stage of the year was seven in 1989. Penal reformers predict the tally will continue to rise.

Karl's mother, Yvonne, a care assistant for the mentally ill, agrees. She is trying to find out and understand what happened to her son. A note he left said he was 'just going around in circles' and was 'no good to anyone'.

'He was a normal lad who needed help,' she said.

Mrs Tout and her husband, Ronald, adopted their son when he was 17 weeks old. After growing up in the village of Darfield, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, Karl started playing truant and taking drugs. He left his parents' home in March last year and began living with his girlfriend.

Shortly afterwards he registered as a drug addict and started taking methadone, the heroin substitute. He had been in trouble with the police previously; his mother said it was for stealing to finance his drug habit. His parents reported him on one occasion after they found drugs in his bedroom. He was sentenced to community service, but was never sent to jail.

After the row with his girlfriend he was arrested and taken into police custody for more than 24 hours before being sent to Moorland. His mother believes he became depressed and ill because he had not taken any methadone. 'The authorities knew he was a registered addict but did nothing and left him on his own. He was just ignored. Now he is another death statistic. Teenagers on remand should never be locked up on their own. How many more suicides must there be before someone understands that?'

(Photographs omitted)

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