Child prisoners given right to argue against solitary confinement

    Children in prison will be given the right to argue against
    being placed in solitary confinement as a result of a judgement
    today, writes Clare Jerrom.

    Justice Jack has ruled that children should be given the right
    to make representations before a prison governor makes the decision
    to place them in segregation.

    Until now, children could be placed in solitary confinement
    without having the opportunity to put their case to the decision
    maker.  For example, if a prison officer was told that prisoner A
    had a grudge against prisoner B and wanted to harm him, prisoner A
    could be placed on segregation without being consulted on the
    issue.

    Chris Callender, the head of the legal team at the Howard League
    for Penal Reform, which took the case to the High Court, said
    today’s decision is a recognition that the courts realise
    that children in the penal system have rights and need to be
    treated fairly.

    The case was taken to the High Court by the charity which was
    acting on behalf of SP, a 17-year-old girl with severe mental
    health problems.

    SP was transferred to a women’s prison from a local
    authority secure children’s home on her 17th birthday. She
    was placed on suicide watch and the following day was transferred
    to the segregation unit for three weeks. During this time she was
    alone in her cell for around 23 hours per day.

    The Howard League argued that SP should have been given the
    opportunity to make representations to the governor before the
    decision was made to place her in isolation.

    In June, Justice Jack ruled that children should be entitled to
    challenge the decision before they were sent to a segregation
    block. The Home Secretary sought to overturn this ruling, but this
    was blocked by the Court of Appeal today.

    Chris Callender, head of the charity’s legal team said:
    “I find it remarkable that the Home Office took exception to
    the idea that vulnerable child prisoners should not be asked to
    comment on the reasons for such an extreme and possibly damaging
    restriction on their incarceration.”

     

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