Justice ministry digs in on extending restraint rules

The Ministry of Justice is still refusing to back down on controversial legislation to extend staff powers to restrain children in secure training centres.

The ministry told Community Care this week a statutory instrument to “clarify” STC rules had come into force last week and would not be reviewed.

The measure will allow STC staff to restrain children for reasons of “good order and discipline”, extending the current use of restraint to prevent risk of harm or escape.

Last week, prisons minister David Hanson indicated that he might review the legislation if a House of Lords debate to quash it was postponed.

But Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile, who is leading a campaign in the Lords against the measure, said the debate would go ahead next week after the government denied it was revising the legislation.

He said: “If the government is not prepared to revise this statutory instrument and set out civilised values on the way children should be treated, there will be a debate.”

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, has written to the Youth Justice Board claiming its justification of the rules change is “inaccurate and misleading”.

While the YJB and the Ministry of Justice both say the change to the rules will bring STCs into line with other secure establishments and schools, Crook told the YIB that neither local authority secure children’s homes or schools “used pain or handcuffs to restrain children” to secure compliance.

The Children’s Commissioner for England has also condemned the measure. Sir Al Aynsley-Green said: “Physical restraint should only ever be used against a child when it is necessary to protect that child from harm to him or herself or others and not to punish or secure compliance.”

The change to the STC rules came after recent inquests into the death of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood, who was found hanging in his room in 2004 the same day he was restrained by staff at Hassockfield STC for refusing to go to his room and 15-year-old Gareth Myatt, who suffocated after being restrained by staff at Rainsbrook STC, also in 2004.

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 Maria Ahmed

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