The coroner who presided over the inquest of 15-year-old Gareth Myatt, who died after being restrained in custody, has written to Justice Secretary Jack Straw warning it would be “wholly unforgivable” if a review of restraint is delayed.
In a 17-page letter, His Honour Judge Pollard urged Straw to take action on 34 points ranging from the treatment of children and the use of restraint to monitoring and inspection.
He pressed Straw on the absolute need to “listen to the voice of the child” following Gareth’s death at Rainsbrook secure training centre in 2004.
The move came after the government announced an independent review of restraint on child prisoners.
Lord Hunt, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, told the House of Lords yesterday the review would be done jointly with the Department of Children, Schools and Families and would look at issues including the medical safety of individual techniques.
Hunt said the review would be completed within around six months of the appointment of an independent chair.
He made the announcement in a debate where Lords called for recent legislation extending staff powers to restrain children in secure training centres for reasons of “good order and discipline” to be annulled.
Currently, STC staff can only restrain children at risk of harm or escape.
Lord Carlile, president of the Howard League for Penal Reform, warned the review should not be a “major delaying tactic” while evidence was “there to be acted upon.”
Lord Hunt said the legislation laid down in a statutory instrument in June was not “an attempt to open the door to the inappropriate use of restraint.”
He added: “A threat to good order and discipline is more than a simple refusal to follow an instruction from a member of staff. It must involve behaviour which puts the safe running of the wider establishment at risk.”
While the decision on whether the legislation will be annulled has yet to be taken, Hunt said he hoped “it would be allow to follow its course.”
Lords debate on secure training centre rules
Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules statutory instrument
Child Minder Blog
Justice ministry digs in on extending restraint rules
Essential information about youth justice