I sometimes feel I am beyond shock at the iniquities that the system delivers. the inquest into his death in custody and listened to evidence that stunned and angered me. verdict delivered last Friday.The jury at Bolton coroner's court had listened to five weeks of evidence about the circumstances of Jake Hardy's death. He was 17 years old and life had not dealt him the best hand. He had mental health problems, learning difficulties and suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD
He was charged with common assault. He was then involved in a brawl and charged with affray. Tried separately, he received a total of six months' imprisonment and was sent to Hindley young offenders institution (YOI) near Wigan. It was his first time in prison.
Almost from day one, he became a target of bullying. He was a big lad, 6ft 4in, but his mother says he had the mind of a child. Other inmates told him that he smelt, threatened to "stab him up" and made disparaging remarks about his mother and family. He complained to various members of staff, but no action was taken against his abusers.
Bullying is rife in YOIs and there are supposed to be measures in place to combat it. Jails have safeguarding teams but Hardy received no protection from them.
He was also allocated a "personal officer". This role was created in the 1990s and was seen as raising the status of uniformed staff. Officers are allocated a small number of prisoners to support. They are supposed to know the history of their charges, so as to help them through problem periods.
Hardy's personal officer gave evidence at the inquest. He told a clearly shocked jury he had not read about Hardy's background, so knew nothing of his learning disabilities, his mental health issues or history of self-harm. He thought Hardy was a big lad who could "look after himself".https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/168137
The jury found that Jake's death was contributed to by failures to give him enough support, record his suicidal thoughts and reports of verbal abuse, and move him to another cell. On the day he died, there were also failures to let him use the phone his mum to protect him from other inmates.
Forty four days into his sentence, Hardy cracked under the abuse. He smashed his television up and cut his arms. But even that did not raise alarms.
Two nights later, staff forgot to allow Hardy to phone his mother. He did not associate with other prisoners because of the bullying. He often cried when on the phone to his mum, resulting in further abuse.
He was told he could use the phone after the association period ended. The jury were shown CCTV footage of the association period, and inmates are clearly seen winding Hardy up through his cell door. The two officers on duty, including his personal officer, do nothing to prevent the abuse. Hardy responds by kicking his door and was told he would not be allowed his phone call. Nor, when association ended, was he given hot water to make a hot drink. All the other inmates, including Hardy's abusers got their hot water as usual.
His personal officer told the jury the phone call and hot water were refused because the staff could not "reward bad behaviour". Hardy killed himself an hour later.
His personal officer told the jury he no longer worked at Hindley. The prison service will not tell me the circumstances of his departure.
Earlier this year, the government announced the setting up of an independent inquiry into the deaths in custody of 18- to 24-year-olds. Some 156 young people in that age group have ended their lives in custody in the past 10 years. Shamefully, the inquiry will not cover the deaths of children under 18 who have died behind bars in YOIs and secure training centres. So the Labour peer, Lord Harris, who will lead the inquiry, will not look at the shocking neglectful treatment handed out to Jake Hardy.
Deborah Coles is co-director of Inquest, which supports the families of those who meet their deaths in custody. She says a full review of all the deaths is needed, looking at not just the fatalities, but at the reasons why young people end up behind bars in the first place.
I said Jake's vulnerabilities dealt him a bad hand in life; a psychiatrist at Hindley told the jury that a "high proportion of inmates at the jail presented with similar problems". We also know that about 60% of young people in custody have been in care at some stage in their lives; was ever a word so misused as care, in that context? It's bad enough that we jail kids who need treatment and not punishment, but to fail them then, in the way that Hindley failed Jake Hardy, is nothing less than a state-committed crime.
DEATH IN PRISON THIS YEAR 2016 IS A RECORD HIGH OF (32)