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Friday, June 29, 2007

The tragic death of Gareth Myatt, a teenager who choked and died while being restrained by three guards at a privately-run youth prison.

Use of restraint blamed for prison death of boy, 15 - Guardian


"The death of Gareth Myatt, a teenager who choked and died while being restrained by three guards at a privately-run youth prison, could have been prevented, an inquest jury found yesterday.

Jurors criticised officials at the Youth Justice Board for failing to review the safety of the restraints used on teenagers in custody, which they said was one of the causes of his death. The verdict came just days after a political row over the Ministry of Justice's plans to clarify the rules governing the use of restraints in privately-run children's jails to allow staff to use them to enforce discipline and good order.

The 15-year-old, from Stoke-on-Trent, was the first child to die while being restrained in custody when he choked to death at Rainsbrook secure training centre in Northamptonshire in April 2004. He was three days into a six-month sentence when staff followed him to his room when he refused to clean a sandwich toaster in the communal area. The inquest heard that while he was being restrained the teenager, who was 1.47 metres (4ft 10in) tall and weighed less than 45kg (7st), tried to warn staff he could not breathe but was ignored.

The jury took a day and a half to reach a verdict of accidental death. It found that the lack of an adequate safety assessment of the restraint and staff's lack of knowledge about its dangers contributed to his death. The coroner, retired judge Richard Pollard, had given it the option of a verdict of unlawful killing, which could have opened the way for legal proceedings against individuals and organisations involved, but the high court dismissed appeals for it to be given an option of corporate manslaughter."

Personally, I find it difficult to regard this as other than deliberate and wholly unwarranted cruelty against a child.