PRISON services have been slammed after a teen was found hanged in his Wigan cell.
Jake Hardy, 17, who was serving six months for affray and common assault, died at Hindley Young Offenders Institution (YOI) in January last year. The report, compiled by The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) Nigel Newcomen, slams the prison service for the lack of care for vulnerable youngsters, and cites bullying and special educational needs as a recurring issue.
It refers equally to Jake’s case and those of Alex Kelly, 15, and 17-year-old Ryan Clark who died while under the supervision of YOIs at Cookham Wood, Kent and Wetherby, West Yorkshire respectively.
The report however does not go into specifics because inquests into the deaths have yet to take place.
Mr Newcomen found that two of the teenagers had suffered bullying and two had refused to take medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder before they died.
He also said that two of the boys should have been moved to specialist units at the YOIs.
He said: “The three children were extremely vulnerable but, following the court decision to place them in custody, there does not seem to have been sufficiently detailed consideration given to the best placement to help manage their vulnerability.
“In two of the cases, when it became clear that the boys were struggling to cope with a normal YOI regime, they were not moved to specialist units within the YOIs despite alternatives being available.”
The report also revealed that two of the teenagers may have been bullied.
Concerns were also raised by relatives of the third child that he may have been bullied, but no evidence was found to back the claims.
The ombudsman said that YOI staff should respond more robustly to bullying and make sure that children have access to outside support such as family members when in crisis.
The report said two of the boys were under the Assessment, Care and Custody, and Teamwork (ACCT), whcih monitors and supports those considered to be at risk of self-harm or suicide.
But investigations concluded that the system was not sufficient, basing results on what the boys said at the time and how they felt.
The report said that one lad had thoughts of self harm, whilst another rejected the idea.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Deaths in prison are amongst the most scrutinised of all events in custody and every death is subject to an investigation by the police and the PPO, as well as a coroner’s inquest.
“The learning points highlighted by the PPO raise important issues and provide a crucial tool for front line staff. Strenuous efforts are made to learn from each death in custody.”
Interviewed in the media at the time of his death, Jake’s parents, Gary and Elizabeth Hardy, from Chesterfield, expressed their anger and demanded to know why their vulnerable child was seemingly able to kill himself in state care.
They said: “We are shocked and devastated by the death of our son.
“Jake was a loving, caring person who was also vulnerable. There have been too many deaths of young people in prison. We support the calls for a public inquiry to understand why this is happening. We don’t want other families to have to go through what we are going through.”