Alex Kelly

no image available femalePublic inquiry demanded after youths’ death

Compiled from various sources
published: Gaynor Kuye – December 2012

Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item

Alex Kelly, 15, was found unconscious in his cell at HMYOI Cookham Wood in Kent. Staff attempted to resuscitate him before he was taken to hospital where he died on the following evening of 24 January 2012. Alex, who had been serving a 10-month sentence for burglary, had been identified as being at risk of suicide or self-harm, according to the Prison Service.

He died just a day after 17-year-old Jake Hardy who died in hospital on Tuesday after being found hanging at HMYOI Hindley in Wigan on Friday. Alex, who was serving 10 months for burglary and theft from a vehicle, was found at Cookham Wood young offenders’ institution in Kent and taken to hospital where he sadly died.

The Prison Service said Alex had been identified as being at risk of suicide or self-harm, but did not give details of the boy’s condition when he was found. Alex was taken to hospital from HMP Cookham Wood, near Rochester, but he later died, a spokeswoman said.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust campaign group, said: “Lessons must be learnt from the tragic deaths within one week of two children in prison.

“Above all, we need to become ‘wise before the event’ and avoid locking up our most vulnerable young people in our bleakest institutions. Compared to care or treatment settings, low staffing levels and lack of resources in young offender institutions make it very difficult for staff to respond to youngsters in extreme distress.”

A spokeswoman for the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) said: “We are very sorry to be informed of the death of Alex Kelly and extend our sympathies to his family and friends, whom we will involve in our investigation if they wish, and try to answer any questions they may have.

“Our independent investigation will aim to identify the full circumstances of the death and whether there were any failings in Alex Kelly’s care. Where possible we will identify lessons to be learned and make recommendations to the Prison Service to help prevent similar deaths in future. We also share any findings with the coroner to assist with his inquiries.”

Deborah Coles, co-director of the charity INQUEST, said the teenagers’ deaths should prompt decisive action by government; “The deaths of Jake Hardy and Alex Kelly whilst in the care of the state are not isolated cases and raise ongoing questions about why we continue to send some of our most vulnerable children into unsafe institutions ill-equipped to deal with their complex needs.

“INQUEST has consistently argued for a holistic inquiry, in public, to examine the underlying systemic and policy issues. The failure of successive governments to hold an inquiry makes it impossible to learn from failures that have cost children their lives.

“We can only hope that this week’s events not only prompt parliamentary debate but decisive action by this government,”

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Follow-up News:

Parents demand inquiry into teenage prison deaths
28 January 2012

Young offender found dead in cell
26 January 2012

Boy found unconscious at HMP Cookham Wood dies
26 January 2012

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