Mum on BBC Three demands protection for youngsters in custody

Chesterfield bereaved family of death in custody teenager. Mum Elizabeth Hardy.
Chesterfield bereaved family of death in custody teenager. Mum Elizabeth Hardy.

The bereaved mum of teenager Jake Hardy who hanged himself in a cell has put forward a convincing argument why more should be done to protect vulnerable youngsters in custody.

Bolton coroner’s court heard this month how Jake Hardy, 17, of Stonegravels, Chesterfield, hanged himself on January 20, 2012, while serving a sentence for affray and assault at Hindley youth offenders’ institution in Wigan.

The 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.

His mother Liz Hardy is now campaigning for prison service improvements with charity INQUEST to prevent similar deaths and she appeared on a BBC Three TV documentary on Thursday, April 24. The documentary claimed there have been 80 deaths in custody in the last ten years in the UK where youngsters aged 21 or under have killed themselves.

During the documentary, Liz Hardy said: “He was bullied that much he was tortured. His mind was tortured and he lost his life at the end of it. Jake was a follower and not a leader and he could not tell right from wrong. He had a mental age of a 12 to 13-year-old.

“If he didn’t have his tablets he would be all giddy. He was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, conduct disorder and autism.

“He did do wrong and he needed to be punished but he was not forced to go to a mainstream prison because he was not normal.”

She added: “CCTV showed inmates kicking his door. He was bullied that much his mind was tortured yet no one helped him and he was crying out for help.

“I got a bang on my door and it was the police and they said, ‘Is your son in Hindley?’. They said: ‘He’s dead, duck. He’s tried to hang himself’.

“I went to the hospital and this nurse said go to the family room. A consultant came out and said he’s on a life support machine. The doctor said he could see a little bit of hope and on Sunday they were going to see but there was no hope by then. She turned his machine off and he died.”

Liz, who carries her son’s socks that she removed from his body after he had died, added: “I can’t sleep at night. I dream about him every night. He died in the care of the state.

“They had him 46 days. I had him 17 years. It really makes me angry.”

Jake was one of three youngsters who have died in custody and were featured in the TV documentary called Dead Behind Bars.

Deborah Coles, co-director of charity INQUEST, said: “The deaths of children and young people in prison should be a national scandal prompting national debate and government action.

“Many of the deaths could and should have been prevented and the mechanisms to protect vulnerable young people are failing.”

The film was inspired by INQUEST’s 2012 report Fatally Flawed. INQUEST has worked with others calling for a review into young deaths in custody.

In February, the Government agreed to commission an independent review into the deaths of 18-24 year-olds. INQUEST also wants an examination of the deaths of youngsters in this film.

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.