Violence against children in custody under scrutiny

The Howard League for Penal Reform is beginning a major European research project on violence towards children in custody.

The charity will work with Defence for Children International, a worldwide children’s rights organisation, in the Netherlands, France and Belgium to develop indicators to test whether children are subjected to violence in jail.

They are to examine European government’s adherence to article 37 of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child which states custody should be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible time.

Research will be conducted over the coming year including interviews with children in custody, covering their treatment and conditions.

The findings will be presented to all 27 European governments in March next year.

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “If children are the victims of violence while in custody, then there is every chance that they will revisit that violence on the community when released. Children are still children and should be treated as such.”

Last year, an inquiry by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile found that children in custody in England and Wales were subjected to treatment that would result in child protection proceedings and criminal charges in any other setting, but the Youth Justice Board rejected its key recommendations.

Carlile’s inquiry was sparked after 15-year-old Gareth Myatt died after being restrained by staff at Rainsbrook secure training centre. The inquest into Myatt’s death is due to resume in July.

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