Youth justice review to include safeguarding in custody

The terms of reference of the youth justice review established by Justice Secretary Michael Gove have been published. Arrangements to safeguard young people, and manage behaviour, are listed as areas to be considered. The Justice Secretary announced the review last week, on 11 September, explaining:

“We need to consider whether the current system, which was created in 2000, remains able to meet the challenges we face in 2015.”

Since 2000, 17 children have died in young offender institutions and secure training centres in England. In 2012, the High Court found that secure training centres run by G4S and Serco had probably been unlawfully restraining children for at least a decade. Back in 2006, the Carlile Inquiry made 45 recommendations in respect of the use of physical restraint, solitary confinement and forcible strip searching of children in custody. International human rights bodies have issued many recommendations in respect of protecting children’s rights in custody, the latest being the UN Committee Against Torture’s 2013 call for a ban on the infliction of pain as a form of restraint. The Youth Justice Board, the statutory body charged with placing children in custodial establishments, has undertaken a number of reviews relating to child safeguarding. Earlier this year, parliament’s human rights select committee said it remains “very concerned about the use of force in custody” and urged the government to “revisit the methods of restraint which can be employed”.

Article 39 will make a submission to this latest review, drawing together the principal messages from inspections and investigations that have taken place across the past 15 years. As well as welcoming the explicit reference to child safeguarding in custody, we are pleased the review is to examine international research studies. However, the exclusion of any consideration of the age of criminal responsibility could impede analysis and learning from child-centred systems, across the UK and internationally, depending on how rigid a process the review follows.

Former headteacher Charlie Taylor will lead the review. His report is due in the summer of 2016, some months after the UK’s next examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. After each of its three previous examinations, in 1995, 2002 and 2008, the Committee has urged the UK to increase the age of criminal responsibility, which is 10 in England and Wales.