Sunday, January 30, 2011

Serco the corporation set to run Perth's new hospital may face corporate manslaughter charges in the UK

 (photo of Adam Rickwood)

How is it possible that a corporation facing the likelihood of corporate manslaughter charges over the death of a 14 year old boy in the UK is allowed to run hospitals, prisons and detention centres in WA and care for highly vulnerable West Australians?

Serco the multinational corporation set to run Perth's major new hospital may face charges of corporate manslaughter in the UK over the death of a 14 year old boy in its care. 

In WA Serco already runs Acacia Prison and immigration detention centres at Curtin (Derby) Perth and Leonora, as well as Christmas Island off the WA Coast. There are real concerns among WA criminal justice and human rights activists that Serco may also win future contracts from the Barnett Government in WA to run the privatized juvenile detention facility (prison) and the prisoner transport (currently run by G4S).

A second inquest into the 2004 death of 14 year old Adam Rickwood in  Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, a Serco run juvenile detention facility, has found that Adam hung himself hours after being struck on the nose by a Serco officer, who with 3 other officers had used an an illegal regime of physical control to restrain the 14 year old. The Inquest found that serious system failures had led to the use of the unlawful regime which in turn had contributed to Adam taking his own life.

In addition to the use of the unlawful regime of excessive force, the Inquest found that:
  • Serco staff were not properly trained in high risk assessment procedures designed for young boys at risk of suicide or self harm
  • Serco staff were not fully trained in the use of Physical Control techniques
  • Serco failed to assign a replacement key worker for Adam when a previous worker went on sick leave
  • The responsible Government agency had failed in its duty of care by not preventing the illegal use of physical control techniques by Serco staff.
The Director of the Howard Leagure for Penal Reform said:
"We would like the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether there is a case for instituting corporate manslaughter against Serco."
Adam Rickwood's mother indicated she will continue to pursue Serco and those responsible for her son's death:
She said she wanted the guards who restrained Adam to be prosecuted and would be seeking legal advice in the near future.
Speaking outside the court, she said: "I feel that at last I have got some sort of justice for Adam.
"I have had six and a half years of waiting for this today and I feel like at last I have got some answers.
"What I have not had is for Serco or the Youth Justice Board to put their hands up and say 'Sorry, we got it wrong'.
"They have not just killed Adam, they have killed thousands and thousands of other children locked up in prisons across the country.
"I'm hoping to have the staff charged with assaulting Adam.
"They should be facing court proceedings for assaulting a little boy, because that's what Adam was, a little boy.
"If you or I had done that to Adam or another child we would be locked up.
"But because they work for the Government it was swept under the carpet."

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