The head of the Youth Justice Board has warned that secure training centre staff caught using restraint to obtain compliance from young offenders will face the sack.
YJB chief executive Ellie Roy told parliament’s joint committee on human rights she was “adamant” that new rules allowing STC staff to use retraint for “good order and discipline”, introduced in July, should not be used to secure compliance, saying it would be a “sackable offence”.
Sitting alongside her, youth justice minister David Hanson said the government would take “a very dim view” of any of the private companies which run STCs using restraint for compliance.
They were speaking on Wednesday in the first evidence session of the committee’s inquiry into the use of restraint in STCs.
The issue reached fever pitch over the summer following the inquests into the deaths of Gareth Myatt, who died while being restrained, and Adam Rickwood, who was found hanging at Hassockfield STC, Durham, in August 2004, hours after he was restrained for not going to his room.
The coroner in the Rickwood inquest asked for clarification on the STC rules, which at the time of the inquest only permitted restraint to be used to prevent escape or harm. But controversially, following the inquest, the government introduced an amendment to the rules to allow restraint to be used for good order and discipline.
Though this was in line with provisions in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, it sparked criticism that ministers were retrospectively legitimising the restraint used on Adam.
However, Roy said: “Compliance is very different from good order and discipline.”
She cited as an example of the “good order and discpline” justification a case where four boys in an STC had linked arms and refused to go to bed, where restraint needed to be used, even though they were not posing a risk to anyone or about to self-harm.
Hanson added that there had been no instances of restraint being used for good order and discipline since the rules were amended.
However, committee members challenged Roy and Hanson on the amendment to the STC rules, saying the term “good order and discipline” was open to wide interpretation.
Hanson also said that the government’s review of the use of restraint in youth custody, launched in the wake of Gareth Myatt’s and Adam Rickwood’s inquests, may lead to some existing restraint techniques being banned.
Methods for defining and monitoring restraint by setting