Inquiry to condemn ‘demeaning’ use of restraint on children in custody

Children in custody are regularly subjected to “demeaning and dehumanising” strip-searching, physical restraint and long periods of isolation, an independent inquiry is expected to report tomorrow (Friday).

The inquiry, by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile QC, is likely to call for independent scrutiny of restraint incidents and an end to the use of prison segregation units for children.

It is also expected to call for a ban on handcuffing young offenders after evidence that this was being used “inappropriately” to restrain inmates in secure training centres.

The inquiry found that handcuffs had been used on children 29 times in Hassockfield secure training centre from April to September 2005, and 17 times in Oakhill STC during the same period.
The inquiry, established following the death of young offender Gareth Myatt after he was restrained by officers at Rainsbrook STC, is expected to suggest handcuffs were being used after the banning of the “double-seated embrace” restraint used on Gareth.

It will also deliver damning criticism on the use of restraint.

According to figures given to the inquiry by the Youth Justice Board, restraint was used 7,020 times on young people in secure training centres between January 2004 and August 2005.

It was used 5,133 times on juveniles in young offender institutions between January 2004 and September 2005, and 3,359 times in eight secure children’s homes between January 2004 and October 2005.

In one case submitted to the inquiry, it was alleged that staff would “bait” children into situations resulting in restraints for their own gratification. 

In another case, a young offender at a secure training centre alleged he had witnessed children with “black eyes” following restraints, and claimed to have seen a member of staff head-butting a boy during a restraint.

The inquiry findings, published by the Howard League for Penal Reform, will raise concerns over the inconsistent recording of the use of restraint – particularly on young people from ethnic minorities – and the existence of only “patchy” information on injuries.

It is also expected to call for greater willingness by police and the Crown Prosecution Service to consider charging and prosecuting staff and companies running child prisons in cases of malpractice.

  • An independent inquiry into physical restraint, solitary confinement and forcible strip searching of children in prisons, secure training centres and local authority secure children’s homes, from
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