Adam Rickwood inquest: care officer acted ‘on instinct’

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THE second inquest into the death of Burnley’s Adam Rickwood in August 2004 has heard how a care officer hit the 14-year-old on the nose “on instinct” hours before he killed himself.

Adam was being detained at privately-run Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, County Durham, following an alleged assault and a major inquiry was launched after he was found hanging in his room.

Speaking at the inquest, care officer Steve Hodgson said he twice warned Adam he would use the nose distraction technique (NDT). He had been

arrested on suspicion of assault in 2005, but was not charged.

The inquest heard that a bleeding Adam was left face down on the floor by four members of staff, who had used the physical control in care (PCC) technique - lifting the eight stone (51kg) boy by the arms and legs and holding his head.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Mr Hodgson said he gave a “short, sharp burst to the nose” with two fingers under the nostrils as the teenager thrashed about, refusing to go back to his toom after a dispute with a female staff member.

The High Court has since ruled NDT is unlawful and PCC should only have been used if a detainee was threatening violence, damaging property or trying to escape.

However, in 2004 officers believed they were allowed to use PCC to ensure discipline, despite rules expressly saying it could only be used in emergencies, the inquest heard.

In a police interview, Mr Hodgson said: “I obviously went with my instinct.”

Rajiv Menon, for the boy’s family, said: “You are admitting you went on instinct, as opposed to the rules.” Mr Hodgson replied: “Instinct, by my training.”

Fearing he was about to be bitten, he said, he twice warned Adam he was going to use NDT. Adam’s nose bled soon after Mr Hodgson used the technique.

The former care officer, who left Hassockfield in 2005, said he visited Adam two hours later in his room, adding: “I didn’t want to go home (without seeing him), knowing what had happened. Obviously that’s not the type of person I am.”

The inquest, expected to last three weeks, continues.