14th March 2012

The parliamentary Justice Committee has published its report of a year long inquiry into youth justice. The Committee found that there were ‘three very serious issues in the custodial estate that require action’:

‘First, it is imperative to draw together and act upon lessons arising from the deaths of vulnerable young people in custody.

‘Secondly, we are concerned that the use of restraint, which has been linked to at least one of these deaths, rose considerably last year and press for a fundamental cultural shift across the secure estate.

‘Thirdly, we recommend more and better co-ordinated support for looked after children and care leavers in custody, who are all too often abandoned by children’s and social services.’

INQUEST gave both written and oral evidence to the Committee.

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“Many of the issues of concern highlighted in this report are raised time and again at inquests into the deaths of vulnerable young people. As the Committee has recognised, failings in the system of looked after children, high levels of restraint, self harm and ultimately death are persistent features of the current youth justice system.

“We welcome this report and its recognition of the imperative need for effective learning and action from the deaths of young people in custody. The current investigation and inquest process is failing to ensure the scrutiny and accountability needed.

“What more compelling evidence does the Government need to propel it into decisive action than the deaths of 67 young people in penal custody in the last ten years. We repeat our call for an independent inquiry to learn from the failures across the youth justice and welfare systems that cost these vulnerable young people their lives.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. The Justice Committee will formally launch its report on the floor of the House at the start of backbench business time on Thursday 14 March. Further information here
  1. INQUEST’S evidence to the Justice Committee inquiry into youth justice can be accessed here
  1. The Committee’s report references ‘Fatally Flawed: Has the state learned lessons from the deaths of children and young people in custody’, an evidence based report by INQUEST and commissioned by the Prison Reform Trust. It was published in October 2012. For a summary of the findings please see INQUEST’s press release. The full report can be accessed here
  1. INQUEST’s book on child deaths in penal custody ‘In the care of the State’, published in 2005, is also available on our website