Children are not chattel

The Guardian newspaper has today exposed further serious child abuse at G4S Medway secure training centre. The allegations include:

  • A 15 year-old girl, Roni, being left alone in her locked room whilst she was miscarrying. She was handed two sanitary towels. G4S took her to hospital a week and a half later
  • Restraint routinely used on children who failed to follow orders – TWO YEARS AFTER the Court of Appeal declared such treatment was unlawful
  • Another 15 year-old girl, Lela, was physically attacked by an officer who slammed her head repeatedly down onto icy ground
  • Verbal abuse by staff
  • Male officers entering girls’ cells without knocking on their doors, including when they were in the shower
  • The centre director, Ben Saunders, “must have known what was going on through the complaints and everything”
  • G4S Director of Children’s Services, Paul Cook, having a long history of bullying and threatening staff.

G4S pre-empted the Guardian revelations by an hour or so, by announcing it is selling “its UK Children’s Services business, comprising 13 children’s homes and its contracts to manage two Secure Training Centres at Medway and Oakhill”. The international security firm does not say how many children it expects to hand over during this process.

Article 39’s Director, Carolyne Willow, responds:

“Children are not chattel to be sold on. Today’s serious child abuse allegations are extremely upsetting and shocking but they have not come out of the blue. Two children have died*; the courts have found widespread unlawful restraint; inspectors have found abuse; and undercover filming has shown the systemic nature of the abuse. Many of us have been saying for years that children were not safe in secure training centres. It cannot be right, legally or morally, for an organisation to be facing such grave allegations to be allowed any say about who should in future take care of the children it has been paid to look after. Secure training centres must close. Then we need a proper inquiry into child abuse in prisons, so we can learn how and why so many children were failed for so long.”

*One of these children, Gareth Myatt, died following restraint in G4S-run Rainsbrook secure training centre in April 2004. The other child, Adam Rickwood, hanged himself hours after being restrained in Serco-run Hassockfield secure training centre in August 2004.