A SECOND inquest begins today into how a 14-year-old boy hanged himself at a County Durham secure unit and became Britain's youngest person to die in a penal institution in modern times.
Adam Rickwood was found in his rooms at the Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, Consett, County Durham, in August 2004, just hours after he had been physically restrained by a member of staff.
The teenager had been held on remand for more than a month, was 150 miles away from his family in Burnley, Lancashire, and had written letters to relatives threatening suicide.
An initial inquest held three years ago presided over by County Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle found the boy deliberately took his own life.
However, that verdict was overturned by the High Court in January 2009, and a fresh inquest ordered. Adam’s family won a legal battle to prevent Mr Tweddle from presiding over the second hearing.
Her Majesty’s assistant deputy coroner Jeremy Freedman will instead conduct the hearing, which is expected to last three weeks, at Durham County Council Offices at Seaside Lane, Easington.
Adam’s mother Carol Pounder is due to give evidence today. Evidence will also be heard from, amongst others, the officers involved in restraining Adam; senior management of the Youth Justice Board including the previous chief executive Ellie Roy; and Serco, the private company that runs Hassockfield.
The inquest will consider, among other issues, how restraint is used against children, the impact it had on Adam, whether it contributed to his death and the supervision of children in the criminal justice system.
The pressure group Inquest, whose lawyers represent Adam’s family, said the case “re-ignites concerns over the treatment of children by the criminal justice system”.
Inquest co-director Deborah Coles said: “Adam’s death and the issue of both when force can be used and the deliberate use of painful force by staff against children has attracted substantial parliamentary and public disquiet.”