Month: December 2017

Review of pain-inducing restraint

The Ministry of Justice is reviewing its authorisation of pain-inducing restraint by GEOAmey escort custody officers taking children to and from secure children’s homes and secure training centres.

This follows our threat of legal action.

Restraint techniques which deliberately inflict pain on children are banned in secure children’s homes. Yet escort custody officers employed by GEOAmey have been authorised and trained to deliberately inflict pain when taking children to and from secure children’s homes since mid-2016.

Article 39 ran a crowdfunder in the Summer to raise funds to be able to legally challenge the policy. Nearly 200 donors generously helped us defend the rights of children.

After we wrote to the Ministry of Justice, it examined restraint records and found there had been no reports of pain-inducing restraint by GEOAmey escort custody officers. To avert legal proceedings, it said it would consider the safety implications of removing the techniques.

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“We welcome the review as a massive opportunity for the government to take positive action to protect the rights of very vulnerable children.

“Pain-inducing restraint is an abuse of children’s rights, dangerous and unjustified. It is already prohibited in other settings by the Department of Health and the Department for Education. Successive human rights bodies have told the UK to remove these brutal restraint methods.

“This is the first time the Ministry of Justice has shown itself open to removing pain-inducing restraint, albeit only in the escorting context, since the terrible death of 14 year-old Adam Rickwood.

“Adam was unlawfully restrained and inflicted with a severe assault to the nose, euphemistically called a ‘nose distraction’. Before he hanged himself in his cell at Hassockfield secure training centre, in 2004, he wrote explaining he had asked why staff were allowed to hit him in the nose and they told him it was restraint.

“This review could, at last, signal a move towards child-centred care.”

We urge organisations and individual experts to contribute evidence to the review by 22 December.

Please send your submission to us, and we will forward to the Ministry of Justice:
Subject heading – Pain-inducing restraint and escorts

Read our submission to the Ministry of Justice: Article 39 submission pain-inducing restraint 14 Dec 2017

Independent board says child prison “inhumane”

The Independent Monitoring Board for Cookham Wood juvenile young offender institution says conditions there are “inhumane”.

Reflecting on 312 visits made to the prison between August 2016 and July 2017, the Board’s annual report states:

“Keeping boys with very severe mental health difficulties at Cookham Wood is inhumane: they cannot be properly supported here with insufficient appropriate specialist healthcare staffing.”

Four boys desperately required mental health care outside the prison but remained incarcerated because there was no specialist provision for them elsewhere. The Board described this as “unacceptable and highly distressing for the boys and staff involved”. One of the boys was admitted to Cookham Wood in December 2016 and wasn’t transferred to hospital until June the following year, “despite constant pleas by the [prison’s] mental health team”. The Board explains:

“From early February to late May he lived segregated in the Phoenix Unit, much of the time in its constant watch cell. He was shown kindness and sensitivity there, but his situation was heart-breaking.”

The Phoenix Unit offers a “very poor physical environment and limited facilities”, the Board complains. From March this year, children have been regularly locked in their cells for half the day, with visitors forced to talk to them “through their doors, which was neither humane nor confidential”.

The Board analysed the time spent by boys out of their cells over a one month period. They found the average was just 4-5 hours during the week and 2 hours at weekends. This was largely due to insufficient staffing. The effects were damaging for both children and staff:

“Boys tell the IMB that it is the unpredictability of their regime which they find particularly upsetting. They do not blame the officers. Indeed, the IMB finds that day-to-day relationships between officers and boys are good, which is strong testimony both to the professionalism and sensitivity of the officers and the patience and understanding of the boys. But many boys say that repeated regime restrictions make them angry and upset. In some boys, anger can lead to violence, and to officers being injured, which in turn exacerbates the staff shortage.”

There is no overnight healthcare support in the prison, which holds around 140 boys.

On 4 July 2015, 16 year-old Daniel Adewole was found on the floor of his cell in Cookham Wood. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy was the cause of death. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman repeated recommendations he had made following the death of Alex Kelly, nearly three years before.

Fifteen year-old Alex Kelly was found hanging in his cell in Cookham Wood on 24 January 2012. He died the following day. Alex had been in care from the age of six years.

Read the full Independent Monitoring Board report here.