The heartbroken mother of a vulnerable Chesterfield teenager who hanged himself in a custody cell has criticised staff for failing to help save his life.
Bolton coroner’s court heard how Jake Hardy, 17, of Stonegravels, Chesterfield, hanged himself on January 20, 2012, while he was serving a sentence for affray and assault at Hindley youth offenders’ institution in Wigan.
An inquest jury concluded he died four days later as a result of his own deliberate act but found multiple failings by YOI staff contributed to his death after he had been bullied by inmates.
Jake’s mother Liz Hardy, 50, said: “It was horrendous. They failed all the way through. There were so many warning signs which were ignored. They could have saved his life.”
The inquest heard how during the evening in question Jake complained about bullying and CCTV showed detainees kicking his door and shouting through his inspection window. Jake refused to go out because he had not been allowed to phone family, according to the inquest, and Jake had been observed shortly before he was found hanged.
However, shortcomings identified by the jury last week included a failure to protect Jake and investigate the bullying. They found Jake’s death was contributed to by a failure to give him enough support, record his suicidal thoughts and reports of verbal abuse, and a failure to move him to another cell.
Other failures included not letting him use the phone, not protecting him from inmates or reviewing the risk of self-harm and the number of checks.
The inquest heard Jake, who had learning difficulties and depression, had previously cut his wrist and complained about verbal abuse.
His mother had also warned he had been thinking about taking his life. Jake left a note for his mother, discovered after his hanging, stating he could not cope with people in prison even staff whom he had asked to “do their job properly”.
Ms Hardy, who feels Jake should have been better monitored, protected and moved to a cell without ligature points, added: “I didn’t expect them to pamper him. I just wanted them to keep him safe, warm and fed and they couldn’t do that. It’s been a nightmare. Life without Jake is terrible. He was such a gentle giant.”
Ms Hardy is considering civil action and after praising her legal team and charity INQUEST is campaigning for changes to prevent youth custody deaths.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “Our sympathies are with Jake Hardy’s family and friends.”
The service stated it will consider findings to see what can be learned and there have been efforts to make changes including bulletins. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has criticised the service for a lack of care for vulnerable youngsters. Jake leaves father Gary and three sisters.