Tonight’s BBC Panorama exposé showed children being treated appallingly by male officers working at G4S-run Medway secure training centre. The programme showed footage of:

  • Officers deliberately escalating incidents so they could (in their minds) justify restraining/assaulting children
  • A child being restrained through pain and excessive force, and being unable to breathe
  • A child being held down on the ground, inflicted with painful restraint holds and taunted
  • Officers casually using restraint techniques which involve the infliction of severe pain and have been authorised only for extremely grave situations (long before this programme, numerous bodies, including the UN Committee Against Torture and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons said such methods should be prohibited)
  • An officer throwing a hard punch to a wall/window and then jumping quickly in front of a child to frighten him
  • An officer recalling a restraint incident when a child complained he was suffocating. The officer laughed and mocked the child whilst sharing his story with colleagues, including “He was sitting there nearly in tears”
  • An officer boasting he had assaulted a child with a fork (thrusting it into the boy’s leg)
  • A child subserviently acquiescing to an officer who forced him to repeat, then shout out “Arsenal are shit”, even though this is the boy’s football team
  • Officers using foul and insulting language to describe children, for example “fat little pr**k” and “fat little sh*t”
  • Officers discussing how to hit a child, and how they had hit children, including “I was straight in slam”, “kicked in”, “I’m just going to hit him. Fact.” and “[I] properly tried to break his skull”
  • Officers recounting how G4S misrepresents incidents to government, in order to avoid fines.

There was footage of G4S officers (male and female) discussing how to fabricate restraint records, and then fabricating a report on camera.

The undercover reporter worked in G4S Medway for two months, between October and December 2015, on a variety of shifts.

Article 39’s Director says:

“The programme was unbearable to watch at times, because it involved witnessing very vulnerable children being subject to serious physical and mental abuse. The children were completely powerless, locked in cells with heavy doors after they had been mistreated, shaking and crying.

“The value of undercover reporting is that officers, including those at senior levels, have no idea they are being watched by individuals who do not share their value system or condone their cruelty. This may give a clue as to why Youth Justice Board monitors and independent advocates were seemingly unaware of the abuse and malpractice. It also reaffirms that regular inspections can never alone ensure children are well looked after. As for children raising concerns, where would they begin, and why should they trust adults in authority after this?

“BBC Panorama has proven to the nation that children have been seriously mistreated in G4S Medway. It is now up to Ministers to close the institution, and to establish an independent inquiry into the care and protection of children in prison.”