Neglect contributed to death of 19-year-old Nicholas Wheller at HMYOI Aylesbury

Monday 1 July 2013

A jury at the inquest into the death of Nicholas Wheller at HMYOI Aylesbury has found that neglect contributed to his death. His family was represented by Kirsten Heaven.

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Nicholas "Nicky" Wheller was 19 years old when he was found hanging in his cell in YOI Aylesbury on 16 March 2011. Nicky had an emotionally unstable borderline personality disorder and was a self harmer. Shortly before he took his own life, he passed a note to a prison officer and asked him to hand it over to a fellow prisoner. The note said that he was going to kill himself unless the fellow prisoner talked him out of it.

The jury at the inquest found that contrary to what he said in his evidence, the prison officer did in fact read the note and thus should have checked on Nicky, contacted a senior member of staff, moved Nicky to safety, and kept an on-going record of the events. For this reason the jury concluded that his death was contributed to by neglect. They also listed a number of failings at HMYOI Aylesbury including insufficient training especially in terms of management of suicide risk, inadequate record keeping and sharing of information, failure to provide or procure appropriate medical care, gross failure to provide or procure medical attention for someone in a dependent position, and multi-disciplinary failures.

Following the verdict on 21 June 2012, the coroner Richard Hullet indicated that he will make rule 43 recommendations on the retention and preservation of CCTV evidence, mental health awareness, CPR and suicide management training for relevant members of staff.

This is the third critical inquest verdict into a self-inflicted death of a vulnerable young person at YOI Aylesbury since the end of 2008.

The case was reported in the media, including by the BBC.

Click here to read the INQUEST press release.

Kirsten Heaven represented Nicholas Wheller's family, and was instructed by Charlotte Haworth-Hird of Bindmans Solicitors. Kirsten is a member of the Garden Court Inquest Team.

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