Campaigners including Inquest and the Howard League for Penal Reform have attacked the failure of the independent review of restraint in youth custody to recommend a ban on the use of painful techniques.
They were joined in their condemnation by the NSPCC, crime reduction charity Nacro and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.
Inquest co-director Deborah Coles said the charity was “bitterly disappointed” that the government-commissioned review, which reported today, had concluded that pain-inducing restraint was justifiable in exceptional circumstances.
This recommendation was taken up by government, along with the vast majority of the review’s other proposals.
Opposed by UN and Aynsley-Green
Coles said the review’s stance on painful techniques was in opposition to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors compliance with the UN children’s rights convention, and children’s commissioner for England Al Aynsley-Green.
She was joined in her condemnation by Carol Pounder, the mother of Adam Rickwood, who killed himself aged 14 in 2004 at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre hours after being restrained using the painful “nose distraction” technique. Adam’s inquest, and that of Gareth Myatt, led ministers to commission the review last summer.
Pounder said: “I am disgusted that force is still being allowed to be used. At home parents are not allowed to use any kind of force against their children. Why are children in custody treated differently?”
Howard League director Frances Crook added her voice to the criticisms, and claimed it was a “scandal” that the review had “failed to deal with the wider issues of conflict resolution, staff skills and training and the behavioural needs of children”.
This was despite a number of recommendations in the review on training and promoting conflict resolution.
Coles added: “This was an opportunity to make a real difference to safeguarding the human rights of children in custody. Instead we have yet another report that outlines little more than what was already known at the conclusion of the inquests into the deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood.”
NSPCC head of policy and public affairs Diana Sutton said: “The NSPCC is disappointed that the government has not taken the opportunity to protect children completely from pain reliant restraint techniques. These techniques can cause physical and psychological damage to children. Children in custody have often experienced violence in their lives and are particularly vulnerable. Our primary concern is their safety and welfare.”
Nacro more positive
Crime reduction charity Nacro also criticised the review’s stance on pain-inducing restraint techniques, but was more positive about its recommendations overall, which focused on more tightly regulating and monitoring the use of restraint.
Chief executive Paul Cavadino said: “These measures are an important step in the right direction. If we want to influence difficult and disruptive young people towards controlling their anger and aggression, we must deal with them in ways that minimise the use of force and always avoid the use of violence.”
- Full details on the review’s recommendations and the government’s response.
- Have your say on the review on CareSpace.
DCSF/MoJ to overhaul restraint in custody following review