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INQUEST PRESS RELEASE – For immediate release 5 July 2010

INQUEST today gave a cautious welcome to the Youth Justice Board’s decision to release, in full, the manual which deals with the physical restraint of children in custody. INQUEST has supported the families of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood whose restraint-related deaths first drew attention to the dangerous and unlawful use of restraint in secure training centres.

Deborah Coles , Co-Director of INQUEST, had been due to give expert evidence to the Information Tribunal appeal hearing originally scheduled for this week. She said:

The dangerous and ultimately lethal use of restraint on children first came to public attention as a result of the inquests held into the restraint-related deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood. It was the determination of the boys’ families to seek the truth that ensured the pervasive secrecy surrounding the use of coercive force by adults against vulnerable children was broken.

Now that the restraint manual is finally to be made public we need to ensure rigorous independent scrutiny of restraint techniques and the circumstances in which they are authorised for use, in order to protect children and young people in custody from injury and death. Otherwise the use of restraint is no more than state-sanctioned child abuse.

Carole Pounder, mother of Adam Rickwood who was 14 years old when he died at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, said:

Nothing can bring Adam back but the families of children in custody should be told about the kind of treatment their son or daughter is going to receive, in the same way as they would be told about the kind of disciplinary policies teachers use in their child’s school.

Notes to editors:

1) INQUEST is the only organisation in England and Wales that provides a specialist, comprehensive advice service on contentious deaths and their investigation to bereaved people, lawyers, other advice and support agencies, the media, parliamentarians and the wider public. INQUEST ensured the families of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood were legally represented by experienced lawyers and had our expert input into the investigation and inquest process. We have raised the issues highlighted by their deaths at a national and international level as well as through various parliamentary inquiries.

2) 15 year old Gareth Myatt died in 2004 in Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre. In an incident which escalated from a dispute over the cleaning of a sandwich toaster, Gareth was placed in what was then an approved PCC hold, known as the Seated Double Embrace (SDE). This involved two staff members holding his upper body and pushing his torso forwards towards his knees with one officer holding his head. Having complained that he could not breathe and then that he was going to defecate, the restraint continued. Having defecated and vomited and even after he had slumped forward, the restraint still continued. Gareth died as a result of asphyxia resulting from a combination of inhalation of gastric content and his body position during the period of physical restraint. Following a police investigation into Gareth’s death the SDE technique as removed from use and has never been reinstated.

3) Adam Rickwood died in 2004 in Hassockfield Secure Training Centre. In an incident which escalated from Adam’s (non-violent) non-compliance with an instruction to go to his room, he was restrained by four members of staff and subjected to the �nose distraction’ technique. Its use caused Adam to bleed from the nose for approximately one hour and he suffered facial abrasions. Adam hanged himself hours later and a statement was found in his room after his death in which he described in his own words his experience of being restrained. He wrote:

When I calmed down I asked them why they hit me in the nose and jumped on me. They said it was because I wouldn’t go in my room so I said what gives them the right to hit a 14 year old child in the nose and they said it was restraint.

The government finally withdrew this technique from use in December 2008 on the advice of the PCC medical review panel. Evidence at the first inquest into Adam Rickwood’s death indicated uncertainty as to whether the technique had in fact ever been endorsed by the panel. A fresh, second inquest into Adam’s death is due to be heard in January 2011.

4) In the Care of the State? (Prof. Barry Goldson and Deborah Coles, INQUEST 2005)

Essential reading for academics, researchers, students, policy makers, penal reformers, youth justice agencies, child welfare professionals, children’s human rights specialists, legal professionals and all others with an interest in the controversial subject of child imprisonment.

Paperback 134 pages ISBN 0 9468 5819 5

This is a splendid book, and I entirely endorse the recommendations made

Lord David Ramsbotham, former Chief Inspector of Prisons

In The Care of the State? can be ordered securely online on the Publications page for £15 + £2 postage and packing.

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