BURNLEY teenager Adam Rickwood - the youngest person to die in youth custody - could have killed himself because he was physically restrained and hit on the nose, an inquest led by Jeremy Freedman has heard.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Hilary Grant said the 14-year-old was “disturbed” by the restraint hours before he was found hanged at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, in County Durham, in August 2004.
At the inquest, Dr Grant was asked whether six factors “more than minimally contributed” to him taking his life.
The jury has heard Adam was an “extremely troubled and vulnerable young man” with a history of cannabis abuse before he was sent on remand to the detention centre after being accused of wounding another youth.
On the day he died, Adam had rowed with a female staff member in the association area and was lifted by four care officers and placed face down in his room. It was during this incident that care officer Steve Hodgson used the controversial Nose Distraction Technique - a sharp painful blow - to stop Adam trying to bite him, the inquest was told.
Adam’s nose bled afterwards and he was left alone in his room to calm down.
Dr Grant said Adam had written a note after being restrained. “He seemed to be disturbed by it,” she told the inquest. “He felt it was disproportionate. I would conclude it was a more than minimally [a] contributing factor.”
She felt the use of NDT fell into the same category and other factors which may have contributed to him making the decision to kill himself were: his vulnerability; being held 150 miles from home; his recent loss of privileges at the centre and finding out a bail hearing was not going ahead the next day.
Mr Freedman told the jury it would have to consider 16 questions - nine would relate to events in the run-up to Adam’s death, three about staff training, two about the involvement of the Youth Justice Board, one about the Hassockfield regime and the factors that might have contributed more than minimally to his death.
He added: “This has been a wide-ranging and extensive inquiry and rightly so because there are very important issued to be ventilated in the public arena.”