The head of the Youth Justice Board has defended its record on monitoring the restraint of child prisoners, which was criticised by the inquest into the death of 15-year-old Gareth Myatt.
In an interview with Community Care, YJB interim chair Graham Robb said the use of restraint in the secure estate had declined over the past year, and defended the board’s “pretty robust” arrangements in monitoring restraint.
Gareth died of asphyxia at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in April 2004 while being restrained by three staff, using the now-banned double seated embrace technique. The inquest jury found that inadequate monitoring of the use of restraint at Rainsbrook by the YJB and Rebound ECD, the private company that runs the STC, contributed to his death.
Robb cited YJB figures showing there were 1,787 restraints in youth custody between January and March this year, compared with last year’s 2,147 between October and December, 2,185 between July and September and 2,044 between April and June.
Robb said it was “too early” to identify why there had been a reduction, admitting that it “may be short-term”. He added the YJB was continuing to monitor the use of restraint and looking at ways it could be reduced.
He said an independent review of restraint announced by the government last week would “not be easy” because there would be “diametrically opposing advice from across the field”. He also pointed out that STCs, young offender institutions and local authority secure children’s homes had different methods for defining and monitoring restraint. Robb said the YJB wanted a single monitoring method on restraint.
Robb refused to comment on whether Rebound ECD and Serco, the company running Hassockfield STC, where 14-year-old Adam Rickwood committed suicide shortly after being restrained in 2004, had incurred financial penalties over the cases.
He also refused to comment on whether Rebound would lose its contract with the YJB to run Rainsbrook, in the wake of the Myatt inquest. Robb said financial penalties imposed on the private companies that run the UK’s four STCs would be “significant and serious” if a contractor was failing to provide a “safe custodial environment”.
“A contract could be withdrawn and a director replaced in an STC if a contractor is failing,” he said. But he added that any information on STC contract breaches was confidential.