A private prison company due to take over the management of Auckland Central Remand Prison at Mt Eden in August has been criticised for its role in the death of a 14-year-old boy in a British institution.

Adam Rickwood, from Burnley in Lancashire, was found hanged in his cell at the Serco-run Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in County Durham in August 2004, hours after being struck on the nose by a prison officer, the BBC reported.

The company described the blow as a "distraction technique" before he was carried to his cell.

An inquest in Easington, County Durham, found Serco personnel were not adequately trained in physical control in care (PCC) techniques.

The jury concluded there had been a serious system failure at the centre which led to an unlawful regime.

Staff at Hassockfield were not properly trained in high risk assessment team (HRAT) procedures designed to safeguard trainees who might self-harm, nor in suicide awareness skills and behaviour management.

The inquest found that at the time of Rickwood's death, the Youth Justice Board should have been aware the PCC was being used unlawfully at Hassockfield, a "serious system failure".

Rickwood should have been assigned a replacement key worker when his own went off sick and Hassockfield had failed to effectively implement an HRAT programme to safeguard him.

The teenager should have been checked every 15 minutes after he had been put on lock-down that night.

The jury also found the boy was unlawfully restrained and hurt in a way that contributed to his taking his own life, though the guards believed they were acting lawfully at the time.

Rickwood's mother, Carol Pounder, wants charges laid against prison officers for assault.

Serco's contract to run Mt Eden is the first awarded to a private company in a decade.

- NZPA