2nd January 2015

In the South Manchester Coroner’s Court, Mount Tarbor, Mottram Street, Stockport SK1 3PA, 5 January 2015 before HM Area Coroner Joanne Kearsley (the inquest is expected to last for 5 weeks)

17-year-old Kesia Leatherbarrow had a long history of self-harming and mental health problems. She was arrested in November 2013 after she broke a window trying to enter a residential care home for people with learning disabilities to visit a friend.  On arrest, officers found a small quantity of cannabis on her.

Kesia was kept in the cells all weekend, where she became very distressed, banging her head against the wall and making threats of suicide. Although she was seen in custody by nurses from Medacs, no formal mental health assessment was carried out, she did not have an appropriate adult for over sixteen hours and the police did not contact her mother, health professionals or social services.  She was sent to court on Monday where she was bailed  to return  the next day due to the fact that the Youth Court did not sit on Mondays. Although she was bailed to her father’s address she left the Court alone and did not return there. The next morning Kesia was found dead in a friend’s garden. 

In the summer before her death Kesia had spent five weeks in a hospital mental health ward for adolescents, after her mental health deteriorated and her self harming behaviour became a concern.  In October 2013 she was arrested for breach of the peace by Lancashire Constabulary after she threatened suicide and self harm. After being kept in a police cell overnight, she was released and Kesia shortly after left the family home threatening to take her own life. The police were called again and she had to be removed from a motorway bridge by police.

The family hope the inquest will address the issues around the way in which Greater Manchester police dealt with Kesia before and during her time in their custody. In particular, the family hope to explore whether the police took appropriate steps to protect Kesia from the risk that she posed to herself whilst in custody and following her release, in light of the fact that they were aware she had threatened to take her own life.

They also hope that the quality of support she received from the mental health services, social services and the Youth Offending Team will be a subject for scrutiny, in particular the transfer of information between  Lancashire NHS Trust and Pennine Care NHS Trust and the two different Youth Offending Teams when Kesia moved to the Tameside area at the end of October 2013.

Kesia’s mother Martina Brincat Baines said:

We are devastated as a family and we hope that the Inquest will provide some answers to allow us to come to terms with this terrible tragedy”

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“This is a very troubling death of a vulnerable child who should never have been locked up in a police cell.  INQUEST is sadly working on far too many cases involving deaths of children and young people with mental health problems where the very systems that should be in place to protect them have failed. This inquest must ensure the most robust scrutiny of all those with responsibility for Kesia’s treatment and care to expose any failings and ensure that  no other family has to lose a child in these disturbing circumstances. “

INQUEST has been working with the family of Kesia Leatherbarrow since her death in 2013.  The family is represented by  INQUEST Lawyers Group members Gemma Vine from Lester Morrill solicitors and Martha Spurrier from Doughty Street Chambers.


Notes to editors:

  1. The IPCC’s published statistics on deaths in police custody for 2013/14 revealed that there were 68 apparent suicides following police custody. Two thirds of individuals (45) were reported to have mental health concerns and three had been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 before their death. http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/research_stats/Deaths_Report_1314.pdf

2.Kesia’s was the latest in a series of deaths among 17-year-olds who had just been released from police custody.

Joe Lawton, who lived in Disley, south Manchester, killed himself after being arrested for drink driving in 2012; his parents were not told that he had been charged.

Eddie Thornber, also 17 and from Manchester, had been detained for possession of 50p worth of cannabis in 2011; he hanged himself in woods near his home. His parents did not know he had been served with a court summons.

Martina Brincat Baines, mother of Kesia, lead a campaign together with the charity Just for Kids Law which recently secured the passing of ‘Kesia’s Law” ensuring  that 17 year old can no longer be detained overnight at police stations