28 Jan 2011

British prison company faulted over inmate's death

2:08 pm on 28 January 2011

A private prison company, which is soon to take over a prison in New Zealand, has been faulted for its part in the death of a young inmate in Britain.

The prisoner, aged 14, took his own life, after taking a sharp blow to the nose from a officer at Serco's youth jail in County Durham in August 2004.

Hours before he died he was struck on the nose, using the nose distraction technique, and carried to his cell.

The BBC reports he was the youngest person to die in custody in the modern era in Britain.

The inquest in Easington, County Durham, heard he was an "extremely troubled young man" with a history of cannabis abuse.

He was on remand after he had been charged with wounding another youth.

But an inquest jury has found Serco personnel were not adequately trained in physical control techniques.

The jury has ruled the officers were also ill-prepared to deal with inmates who might harm themselves nor were they trained in suicide awareness skills and behaviour management.

In conclusion, the jury deemed the incident unlawful and a serious system failure.

The jury ruled the teenager should have been checked every 15 minutes after he had been put on lock-down that night.

The jury also found Adam was unlawfully restrained and hurt in a way that contributed to his taking his own life.

However, it said the guards genuinely believed they were acting lawfully at the time.

Charges wanted

Serco has expressed its condolences to the family, but the boy's mother, Carol Pounder, now wants charges laid.

"I have had six-and-a-half years of waiting for this today and I feel like at last I have got some answers," she said.

""I'm hoping to have the staff charged with assaulting (him)."

Serco is due to take over the management of Auckland Central Remand Prison at Mt Eden in August.

It's the first prison contract awarded to a private company in a decade. The contract will be signed next week.

Company comment

The company says major changes have been implemented since the incident in 2004.

Serco says it has stopped the nose distraction technique, which is now illegal, and upskilled its staff in non-physical ways to defuse trouble.