'Wholly unforgivable' if lessons not learned from child's death, Judge tells Secretary of State for Justice

Wednesday 18 July 2007

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The judge who presided over the inquest of Gareth Myatt, the only child to die in custody following restraint, wrote today to the Secretary of State for Justice that it would be 'wholly unforgivable and a double tragedy' if there was any delay in learning from and acting upon the lessons of Gareth's death. His Honour Judge Pollard specified 34 Actions he believed should be taken to prevent other children dying in custody. The 'Rule 43' Report of the judge follows on from the scathing narrative verdict reached by the inquest jury, which devastatingly implicated Home Office and Youth Justice Board failures in the death of this 15 year-old child. Garden Court's Dexter Dias led Brenda Campbell in representing Gareth's mother throughout one the longest death in custody inquests in legal history.

Gareth, 4 foot 10 and weighing 6 ½ stones, died at the privately-run Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in 2004 following restraint by three adult officers. The incident began with Gareth's refusal to clean a toaster having made a cheese toastie. The officers used the 'Seated Double Embrace' hold on him, part of an inadequately tested system of restraint used on children called Physical Care in Custody (PCC). The inquest jury found that the Home Office and Youth Justice Board's failure to test this system medically and their inadequate safety assessment of it caused or contributed to Gareth's death.

In a detailed Article 2 narrative verdict, the inquest jury found that Gareth's death was caused or contributed to by: inadequate assessment of the safety of the restraint system used on children in Secure Training Centres; failure to undertake medical review of the system; the failure by the YJB to depute anyone with managerial responsibility for PCC; the inadequacy of the YJB's response to the National Children's Bureau recommendation that there was an urgent need for the medical review of PCC; the YJB's inadequate response to information that children were vomiting and having difficulties breathing during restraint; the inadequate monitoring of PCC by the YJB.

HHJ Pollard's recommended preventative actions range widely over the treatment of children, the use of restraint, monitoring, good practice, access for emergency vehicles and inspection. He stressed to the Home Secretary a theme pressed by Gareth's lawyers throughout the inquest: the absolute need to 'listen to the voice of the child'.

Solicitor Mark Scott of Bhatt Murphy instructed Dexter Dias and Brenda Campbell. Gareth's team of lawyers was fully supported by Deb Coles, co-director of INQUEST, and by Gilly Mundy, who tragically and unexpectedly died during the course of the hearings. Garden Court Chambers sends its deepest condolences to both Gareth's and Gilly's families.

Click here to read HHJ Pollard's Report to the Home Secretary
Click here to read the jury's Narrative Verdict

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