A young life ended in suicide behind bars at prison. Now an inquest asks the critical question, did the authorities adequately discharge their responsibility?
A young life ended in suicide behind bars at prison. Now an inquest asks the critical question, did the authorities adequately discharge their responsibility?

Mum wants answers: Inquest to probe prison suicide

DYLON Ahquee fell through the cracks.

Before the age of six he was taken into state care, his first brush with the law was at nine, at 11 he was locked up in youth detention, by 17 he was in an adult facility and two years later he took his own life while behind bars.

A coronial inquest into his suicide at the Townsville Correctional Centre on December 26, 2015 will probe the circumstances surrounding his untimely death.

The inquest will ask the critical question, did the authority charged with providing for his mental health and physical care adequately discharge that responsibility?

Speaking exclusively with the Townsville Bulletin, his mother Margaret Hitchins said five years after her son's death many questions remained unanswered.

"I just see it as a kid who got well and truly lost through the cracks," she said.

"He fell through the cracks in so many ways and it started so long before he was in adult jail."

Looking back, Ms Hitchins said with the benefit of hindsight she can see the signs of ADHD, Oppositional defiant disorder and other behavioural issues Dylon had as a young child.

A coronial inquest into 19-year-old Dylon Ahquee's suicide at the Townsville Correctional Centre on December 26, 2015 will probe the circumstances surrounding his untimely death asking the critical question, did the authority charged with providing for his mental health and physical care adequately discharge that responsibility?
A coronial inquest into 19-year-old Dylon Ahquee's suicide at the Townsville Correctional Centre on December 26, 2015 will probe the circumstances surrounding his untimely death asking the critical question, did the authority charged with providing for his mental health and physical care adequately discharge that responsibility?

Ms Hitchins said he fell into the wrong crowd while living in a shared care home and began running amok with other young offenders and his life became a cycle of court dates, probation meetings and that he eventually was "in and out of juvie".

She makes no excuses for her son's bad behaviour which included stealing cars, taking drugs and creeping through the streets with his friends to break into homes.

Ms Hitchins said the Youth Justice system failed to help her little boy rehabilitate and that by the time he was offered counselling and other help, it was already too late for him.

When Dylon was first sentenced to youth detention, Ms Hitchins said she told the Magistrate he deserved a strict punishment.

 

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"He needed consequences for his behaviours, because up until then, it had been probation after probation after probation," she said

She recounted another instance at a restorative justice conference where she and Dylon sat at a table across from people whose home he broke into.

The conferences are an alternative to court proceedings where the people most affected by the crime speak with the child about what happened, the impacts of their offending and work to repair the harm to the victim.

A coronial inquest into 19-year-old Dylon Ahquee's (left) suicide at the Townsville Correctional Centre on December 26, 2015 will probe the circumstances surrounding his untimely death asking the critical question, did the authority charged with providing for his mental health and physical care adequately discharge that responsibility? Dylon is pictured alongside his family.
A coronial inquest into 19-year-old Dylon Ahquee's (left) suicide at the Townsville Correctional Centre on December 26, 2015 will probe the circumstances surrounding his untimely death asking the critical question, did the authority charged with providing for his mental health and physical care adequately discharge that responsibility? Dylon is pictured alongside his family.

Ms Hitchins said Dylon showed little remorse through the processes, which she said he treated as just another step of his probation.

"He did it because he was told to do it," she said.

"It was not to try and make amends or anything else.

"If it had been done right at the very start when he first started doing it maybe seeing the effects of what he had done might have helped, but not so far down the track."

As well as a number of failings within the youth justice system, Ms Hitchins said her son did not get timely help for his deteriorating mental health.

In the lead up to his death inside his cell at the Stuart prison, Ms Hitchins said Dylon was placed on suicide watch a "couple of times" and was in and out of protective custody.

"He wasn't offered counselling or psychiatric help until he was 15 and by that stage it was well and truly too late," she said.

As well as considering if Dylon's mental health and physical care was adequate, the inquest into his death will also consider if a third party contributed to his death, if sufficient information about Dylon was shared between youth detention centres, Youth

Justice and Townsville Correctional Centre when he entered adult custody and if policy changes could reduce the likelihood of deaths occurring in similar circumstances.

Coroner Terry Ryan will preside over the inquest when it begins next month in Brisbane.

• If you or someone you know needs help, phone Lifeline on 131 114

Originally published as Inquest to probe Townsville prison suicide


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