Last month, the rules for secure training centres were amended to allow restraint to be used as a means of “ensuring good order and discipline” rather than only to prevent harm, escape or damage to property. The government insisted the clarification was not intended to promote greater use of restraint, and that it should be used as a last resort only. But the timing of the change, after the recent inquests into the deaths in 2004 of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood at Hassockfield STC and Gareth Myatt, 15, at Rainsbrook STC was seen by some as suspicious.
Adam had been restrained for refusing to go to his room hours before he hanged himself. Gareth died accidentally after being restrained by three members of staff.
Jon Fayle, former head of policy at the Youth Justice Board, suggested the ministry’s actions were an attempt to “legislate retrospectively” to cover up for the failings highlighted in Adam’s inquest. He said widening the rules would be “a wholly deplorable step in the wrong direction”.
But despite pressure from campaigners, the House of Lords, the children’s commissioner, the coroner who presided over Gareth’s inquest – the government has refused to backtrack on the amendment. However, ministers have agreed to set up a “review of restraint issues”.
That review is due to report early next year on the “operational efficacy and safety of restraint methods” in juvenile secure settings, including the medical safety of individual techniques. In the meantime, the amended rules remain in place, and opinions on restraint against children remain divided.
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The debate: when should restraint be used
Methods for defining and monitoring restraint by setting
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This article appeared in the 23 August issue under the headline “Is this ever right?”