6th November 2014

10.30am Monday 10 November 2014
Before HM Coroner for Mid Kent & Medway Patricia Harding

The inquest is expected to last 4 weeks.

Archbishops Palace,
Mill Street,
ME15 6YE

Alex was 15 years old when he was found hanging in his cell at HMYOI Cookham Wood on 24 January 2012.  He died in hospital the following day on 25 January 2012.  He was one of three children to die in Young Offenders Institutions from apparently self-inflicted deaths within a ten month period.

Alex was in the care of Tower Hamlets Council but had lived with foster carers in Medway since 2002.  He was also known to a number of agencies due to concerns about his health including mental health services.

In October 2011 Alex was sentenced to 10 months in custody and was placed in HMYOI Cookham Wood. During his time in custody, Alex began to withdraw from participation in the regime and his vulnerabilities and complex needs became more apparent. As a result he was monitored under the prison’s suicide and self harm procedures in October and December 2011 and then almost constantly from the beginning of January 2012 until his death. 

On the evening of 24 January 2012 Alex was observed to be in a low/distressed state and his observations were increased, but Alex was found hanging in his cell by prison staff.  He was taken to hospital where he died on 25 January 2012.

In October 2014, HM Inspectorate of Prisons published a highly critical report following and inspection of Cookham Wood which raised concerns regarding the safety of child prisoners and the impact of staffing cuts on regimes and conditions in the prison.

It is hoped that the inquest will address, amongst others, the following issues:

  • Whether the placement of 15 year old Alex into a prison was appropriate.
  • Whether Alex’s specific vulnerabilities and needs were appropriately identified and addressed by the prison.
  • Whether the assessments of Alex’s risk of self harm or suicide were adequate.
  • Whether Alex was provided with adequate support by Social Services as a looked after child. 
  • The adequacy of the prison’s emergency response procedures.

Nick Popat, Alex’s father said:

“Alex was a loving, caring vulnerable 15 year old child.  I do not understand why he was sent to prison given his age and vulnerabilities.  I hope the inquest will finally give me some answers to help me find some peace. ”

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“What can be more shocking than the death of a child while in the care of the state. This inquest must ensure the most robust scrutiny of why such a vulnerable child was ever imprisoned in the first place.”

INQUEST has been working with Alex Kelly’s family since his death in January 2012. Alex’s family are represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Mark Scott of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, and Danny Friedman QC of Matrix Chambers.


Notes to editors:

  1. The family will not be making any further statements until the end of the inquest.  
  2. There have been 33 deaths of children in penal custody since 1990. Alex Kelly’s death occurred two days before the death of 17 year old Jake Hardy and nine months after the death of 17 year old Ryan Clark.
  3. INQUEST’s briefing on the need for an independent review of the deaths of both children and young people aged 18-24 is available here
  4. The government’s announcement of a review excluding children is available here
  5. HM Inspectorate of Prison report on HMYOI Cookham Wood can be found here