High Court: Restraint rule change breached duties

The Ministry of Justice breached two legal duties when it controversially amended secure training centre rules to enable the restraint of young offenders for the purposes of “good order and discipline”, the High Court has ruled.

A judicial review found that the decision last summer – which was vehemently opposed by campaigners – breached duties to consult children’s commissioner for England Al Aynsley-Green and to carry out a race equality impact assessment.

STC rules previously specified that restraint could only be used to prevent escape or harm, but ministers amended these in the wake of the inquests into the deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood to enable restraint for “good order and discipline”. 

Adam Rickwood case

Adam committed suicide hours after he was restrained for not going to his room, prompting campaigners to claim the government had changed the rules to retrospectively legitimise the restraint used on him.

Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Mr Justice Burton said the move, which the government portrayed as a clarification of the law, constituted a significant policy change, and therefore required consultation with the commissioner and a race impact assessment.

The test case heard in December, backed by the campaign group Inquest, was brought by a young person, AC, who was remanded to an STC though charges against him were later dropped.

Not human rights breach

The judges rejected a third ground of the review – that the change in rules breached the young person’s human rights – and refused to quash the change in rules, because of the government’s decision to commission an independent review of restraint in the secure estate.

The judgement also referred to justice secretary Jack Straw’s decision last December to suspend two methods of restraint – the nose distraction technique and the double basket hold – in line with recommendations made by the coroner in the Gareth Myatt inquest.

However, Inquest co-director Deborah Coles said she feared the the “narrow remit of the restraint review will not address the serious questions raised by the state-sanctioned use of force used against some of society’s most vulnerable children”.

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The truth about restraint: one young person’s experience

YJB: Using restraint to secure compliance is a sackable offence

Methods for defining and monitoring restraint by setting

Essential information on youth justice

More information

Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007

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