The administration of the Horizon Adult Remand Centre has been found negligent in the death of teenager Vanessa Wint.
The 16-year-old was found hanging in a section of the remand centre with a sheet around her neck in November 2012.
Wint was remanded in custody by a Family Court magistrate after she repeatedly ran away from home. The child was sexually molested by an older male community member who threatened to kill her parents if she reported the crime.
She was deemed an uncontrollable child and sent to the adult remand facility.
On Friday, a jury in a Coroner’s Inquest requested by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA)ruled that her death was “due in part by the negligence of the authorities of Horizon Adult Remand Centre to place her under suicide watch and take measures to protect her from self-harm”.
In 2013, an investigation into Wint’s death conducted by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) found that her remand was “irregular and possibly unlawful, due to the fact that the committal order was not endorsed by the minister as required by the law.”
The commission also revealed that there was no particular training of the staff as it relates to the handling of juveniles and has decided to not just consider the issue of Wint’s death, but also the broader issues regarding reducing the risk of suicides in the future.
“The commission found that the State failed in its duty to safeguard the life of Vanessa Wint, as they failed to take all reasonable steps to cause her to be closely monitored in a manner that would facilitate quick response should she make another attempt to harm herself or take her own life; this, considering the known fact that she had made numerous attempts,” INDECOM said.
“The commission also found that the State failed in its duty to establish and maintain standard operating procedures to effectively detect and manage the risk of an inmate or ward’s suicide,” the news release added.
The OCA recommended a coroner’s inquest and referred the matter to the Special Coroner to determine the circumstances surrounding the teen’s death.
A news release from the OCA recently stated that the inquest was convened in 2013 amidst concerns about the safety of teens being housed in adult correctional facilities at the time. Its hearing began in February.
In the news release the OCA stated that it was pleased with the verdict.
Likening the verdict to a “glimmer of hope, Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison said that the decision gives the OCA a sound basis upon which to determine the next steps.
The OCA believes that from this judgement, going forward vulnerable children like Vanessa, who are faced with psychological and deep emotional challenges, will get some specialist attention and intervention when in custody of the State, especially those with a proclivity to self – harm.
The OCA also feels that children who are the subject of correctional orders must be given due care to ensure that they are placed in appropriate correctional facilities which are approved for holding children.
The Coroner’s Inquest was held at the Sutton Street Coroner’s Court in Kingston. Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding was the foreman who relayed the verdict.