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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 19:03 GMT 20:03 UK
Mother's victory over son's death
Colin Williamson
Colin Williamson was found hanging in his cell in June 2001
The mother of a teenager who killed himself at a young offenders institute has won her fight to force the prison service to take responsibility.

Norma Woods was attempting to sue the Home Office under the Human Rights Act, claiming her son Colin Williamson had been denied his right to life.

An inquest into the 18-year-old's death at Portland, Dorset, in 2001 found a series of failings in his care.

On Monday, Ms Woods was told the Home Office was agreeing a settlement.

Norma Woods
Them admitting they were wrong means everything - and hopefully making a change for the other children
Norma Woods
Her son was found hanging in his cell in June 2001.

The inquest in November 2001 recorded a verdict of suicide on Mr Williamson, but said he had a history of mental health problems and should never have been left on his own.

It found he was put under special observation when he arrived at Portland, but was taken off it again by a senior officer - against prison service regulations.

Since the inquest, Ms Woods has been trying to sue the Home Office, saying their failure to look after her son properly was infringing his right to life.

This is thought to be the first time the Human Rights Act has been used in this way.

'Massively overcrowded'

Ms Woods said: "Them admitting they were wrong means everything - and hopefully making a change for the other children."

The Prison Reform Trust said the case raised concerns about the treatment of vulnerable young men in the care of the prison service.

"The big problem is that we have a prison system which is massively overcrowded and staff are therefore in a very difficult situation and under immense pressure," said a spokesman.

"In those kinds of situations I fear that a vulnerable young man could once again take his own life - simply because staff are overwhelmed."

The Home Office refused to comment on the case, saying the detail of the settlement was still being worked out.



Sad state of youth prisons
05 Feb 03  |  England

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