1. ITV Report

Mum whose son killed himself in cell hits out at prison failures

Joseph Scholes hanged himself in prison ten years ago Photo: PA Archive

The mum whose son committed suicide in his cell has said she is 'saddened' by a report into the number of deaths by young people in prison.

16-year-old Joseph Scholes hanged himself in his cell at Stoke Heath Young Offenders' Institution in Shropshire on March 24 2002 - nine days into a two-year sentence for robbery.

Nine children and more than 190 other young people aged 24 and under have died in prisons or secure training centres since calls for a review went unfulfilled following the death of Joseph 10 years ago, campaigners said.

Yvonne Bailey, Joseph's mother, who has long called for a public inquiry, said:

It is now over a decade since my son Joseph died in fear and distress hanging from the window bars of his squalid cell in a children's prison.

The deaths of a further nine young boys are devastating evidence that the changes implemented were yet again wholly insufficient to fulfil the duty on the state to protect the right to life of the children it imprisons.

I am saddened and perplexed by the continuing and repeated refusal of successive governments to properly investigate through a public inquiry the circumstances that have led to the deaths of child prisoners.

Systemic failures in prisons, the criminal justice system and community agencies are contributing to the deaths of children and young people in custody, a report has found.

The lack of action over the past decade is a "devastating indictment of bad practice", former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham said.

Children and young people are being failed by the systems set up to safeguard them from harm, the report by the Prison Reform Trust and the Inquest campaign group found.

Joseph had only been in prison for nine days when he killed himself Credit: PA Archive

Nine children and more than 190 other young people aged 24 and under have died in prisons or secure training centres in the last ten years, campaigners have said.

The report, which looked at the experiences of 98 children and young people who died, found they were "some of the most disadvantaged in society" and had experienced problems with mental health, self-harm, alcohol and drugs.

In many cases there were communication failures between community agencies and prisons while, in others, they were placed in prisons with unsafe environments and cells, the report said.

It added that poor medical care and limited access to therapeutic services in prison also caused problems and some children and young people had been exposed to bullying, segregation or restraint.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "Every death in custody is a tragedy for families and friends and has a profound effect on staff and other prisoners.

"Young people in custody are some of the most vulnerable and troubled individuals in society and their safety is our highest priority.

"Strenuous efforts are made to learn from each death and improve our understanding and procedures for caring for prisoners.

"Findings from relevant reports and inquests are examined and incorporated into policies with guidance and lessons learned shared with custodial staff."

Maggie Atkinson, the Children's Commissioner for England, added: "It is never acceptable for a child to come to harm while they are imprisoned and this situation does need close and careful monitoring and scrutiny, as demonstrated through research such as this today.

"Some lessons have been learned from previous tragedies with action undertaken to prevent another young life tragically ending.

"The findings from this research will be extremely helpful to aid further improvements in this area."