THE boss of a secure unit where teenager Adam Rickwood died planned to abolish a painful nose restraint just days before his death, an inquest heard.
But the technique, which staff used to restrain Adam, 14, was stil used at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, Consett, County Durham, for 15 months after he was found hanged in his cell.
Yesterday Hassockfield director Trevor Wilson-Smith told a jury sitting in an inquest into Adam’s death that Nose Distraction Technique (NDT), which involved applying painful pressure on an inmate’s nose while holding him down, “just didn’t sit right with me”.
Adam was carried to his room by four members of staff at Hassockfield and left there face down and bleeding in August 2004.
Yet the hearing at Easington, County Durham, was told that NDT – which often caused nose bleeding – was not banned at Hassockfield until more than a year later.
When asked why it had taken so long, Mr Wilson-Smith replied: “On a personal note it should not have done. But that year from August was just a blur, what happened to Adam was my worst nightmare.
“I should have stopped it (NDT) quicker but I still did it a year before anybody else. But you’re right, I shouldn’t have waited a year.”
Mr Wilson-Smith was asked why Adam had been taken off suicide watch despite warning his mother he planned to kill himself – a warning his mother had passed on to staff.
He replied that Adam had displayed “nothing tangible, no self-harm issues”. Mr Wilson Smith also confirmed that it was practice for staff at Hassockfield to use physical restraint on detainees – a practice he described as “a structured hug” – if they refused to carry out an order, even though the practice was banned for under national regulations.
Eight-stone Adam, the youngest person to die in custody in modern times, had been carried to his cell by four male staff after he had refused to go there when ordered by care worker Claire Murray.
Ms Murray, who had only been in the job for a matter of weeks, had earlier been the brunt of horseplay involving Adam and two other detainees.
The inquest into the death of Adam, from Burnley, Lancashire, continues.