All distraction techniques used in secure training centres should be abolished without delay to protect the human rights of children, MPs and lords recommended today.
The government caused outcry last July among children and human right campaigners when it allowed the use of force on children aged 12 to 17 in STCs to “ensure good order and discipline”.
But last December, it suspended both the use of “nose distraction”, where a child’s nose is hit upwards on the septum, and the “double basket hold”, after medical experts raised concerns about the techniques’ safety.
However, the JCHR said in its report today, The Use of Restraint in Secure Training Centres, there was “no excuse for the deliberate infliction of pain on children in detention” and the use of these techniques went against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that restraint should “not involve the deliberate infliction of pain as a form of control”.
The JCHR estimates that restraint is used, on average, at least 10 times a year on every child detained in privately-run STCs.
Distraction techniques came into the public eye in 2004 after Adam Rickwood and Gareth Myatt died in custody after staff used physical restraint techniques – nose distraction and the seated double embrace – in two separate secure training centres.
Andrew Dismore MP, chair of the committee, said: “What is in effect state-sanctioned infliction of pain against children to ensure ‘good order and discipline’ should not continue. Restraint should only be used to prevent injury to the trainee or others or to prevent escape,” he added.
The JCHR urged the government to publish the STC staff manual on distraction techniques, which it has so far refused to do so.
Responses from the sector
“Treatment that would see a parent or teacher in front of social services is not only allowed in these child jails but positively encouraged by recent rule changes. The child-centred approach we see elsewhere is abandoned behind bars in favour of painful punishment and control that is in contravention of international standards.”
Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform
“The JCHR has told Government in the strongest possible terms that it is failing to uphold the human rights of children in custody, and leaving children exposed to intolerable levels of violence. This is a devastating report that Ministers should act on immediately.”
Carolyne Willow, CRAE’s national co-ordinator
“Failure to implement the JCHR recommendations will put more children’s lives in danger and amounts to a continuation of state-sanctioned violence against some of society’s most vulnerable children.”
Deborah Coles, Co-Director of INQUEST, a non government legal organisation