Category: Physical restraint

7,784 restraints led to injuries in child custody 2007-2015

Data released today to Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister, Andy Slaughter MP, reveals there were 7,784 restraint incidents leading to child injuries in custodial institutions between 2007 and 2015. Across these eight years:

  • 4,092 restraints in young offender institutions resulted in children being injured
  • 2,583 restraints in secure training centres resulted in children being injured
  • 1,109 restraints in secure children’s homes resulted in children being injured

Sixteen institutions closed over the eight-year period.

Counting incidents for only those institutions which remained open for the whole eight years, the data reveals the four secure training centres had a much higher rate of restraints leading to child injuries: an average of 81 incidents per year per institution across each of the eight years.

The average for the nine young offender institutions with data for the full eight years was 48 restraint incidents per year per institution; and for 10 secure children’s homes with full data the average was 13 per home per year.

The five institutions with the highest incidents of restraint leading to child injuries across the whole time period were:

  • Hindley young offender institution, with 969 incidents (run by the UK prison service)*
  • Hassockfield secure training centre, with 945 incidents (run by Serco)*
  • Medway secure training centre, with 833 incidents (run by G4S)
  • Wetherby young offender institution, with 586 incidents (run by UK prison service)
  • Rainsbrook secure training centre, with 577 incidents (run by G4S)

The five institutions with the least number of incidents of restraint leading to child injuries were:

  • Barton Moss secure children’s home, with 7 incidents (run by Salford City Council Children’s Services)
  • Aldine House secure children’s home, with 25 incidents (run by Sheffield City Council Children’s Services)
  • Swanwick Lodge secure children’s home, with 69 incidents (run by Hampshire County Council Children’s Services)
  • Hillside secure children’s home, with 77 incidents (run by Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council Children’s Services)
  • Lincolnshire secure children’s home, with 89 incidents (run by Lincolnshire County Council Children’s Services)

Although the Shadow Justice Minister requested data on the number of child injuries, he was only provided with the incidents of restraints which led to injuries. This means the scale of child injuries remains unknown.

Annual restraint statistics published by the Youth Justice Board have to date included only restraint incidents that led to injuries requiring medical or hospital treatment. These latest figures go further than those released in January 2016, covering all types of injuries, since data for individual institutions is provided for the very first time.

The Parliamentary Question (answered 8 April 2016) is here.

*These two institutions have since closed. The data relates to the periods between the year ending March 2008 and the year ending March 2015.

Escort staff to be allowed to inflict pain on children

Earlier this month, Prisons Minister Andrew Selous indicated in response to a parliamentary question that escort officers transporting children to and from secure training centres and secure children’s homes would start using the Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint (MMPR) system from April 2016.

Article 39 wrote to the Minister expressing concern about this move, since MMPR is known to involve the deliberate infliction of pain; secure children’s homes detain children as young as 10; and children’s homes’ statutory guidance (since 2011) prohibits staff deliberately inflicting pain as a form of restraint (page 31). We asked if MMPR had been authorised for use on children as young as 10 and, if so, if the Minister could “set out the rationale for these techniques being necessary, proportionate and lawful during the movement of children to and from these establishments, but not during their time living in them”.

In his response to our letter, the Minister states: “… MMPR training has been specifically tailored to take account of escort officers’ responsibilities towards the younger children in SCHs, although it is very rare for children as young as ten to be in custody. The principles applying to the use of pain-inducing techniques as part of a system of restraint are restricted to circumstances where it is necessary to protect a child or others from immediate risk of serious physical harm”.

One-third of the 12 core restraint techniques in MMPR rely on the infliction of pain, according to the Restraint Advisory Board (see page 56) established by the government to scrutinise the methods prior to their introduction. Significantly, the Board’s 2011 report states that it was not asked to review use of the MPPR techniques by escort providers:

“The terms of reference do not currently extend to assessment of restraint of children outside of the secure estate of YOIs and STCs, and in particular any restraint required during the regular escorting of children, for example to and from court or when transferring to other establishments. This is a complex area involving a variety of escorting agencies and vehicles used and the RAB is in no position to comment upon the suitability of any of the techniques in MMPR for such purposes.” (page 10)

In November 2015, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons published its review of MMPR and reported that officers in juvenile young offender institutions use pain-inducing techniques “frequently”, in breach of policy (and the law). The use of these techniques was also under-reported by prison officers. The inspectorate has consistently opposed the use of such techniques on children and, in this report, states, “We did not find any evidence to justify the use of pain compliance as an approved technique”.

One of the inspectorate’s 10 recommendations is that, “Pain-inducing techniques should not be used on children and, until this is agreed, all incidents of pain compliance should be reviewed by the MMPR national team”. Both the United Nations Committee Against Torture (in 2013) and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (in 2009) have urged the UK to stop allowing officers to inflict pain on children in prison.

Serco has the contract with the Youth Justice Board to transport children to and from secure training centres and secure children’s homes. A parliamentary question found that YJB-contracted escorts had used handcuffs on children 1,395 times between January 2010 and September 2013.

In December 2015, there were 105 children in secure children’s homes who had been sentenced or remanded by the courts.

Further child safety concerns in custody

Data released today by the Ministry of Justice and the Youth Justice Board shows a 32% increase in children in custody requiring hospital treatment after being assaulted, self-harming or restraint.

In 2013/2014, 44 children were taken to hospital after assault (28), self-harm (13) and restraint (3).

This increased to 58 in 2014/2015, with 31 children requiring hospital treatment after being assaulted; 22 after self-harm; and 5 after restraint.

The statistics also show there were 286 restraint incidents involving children lying on the ground with their face to the floor, in three secure training centres and two young offender institutions in 2014/15. Another 196 incidents involved children being restrained whilst lying on their backs on the floor in the five prisons.

In young offender institutions, officers are permitted to restrain children to secure compliance. Restraint to secure compliance was used 243 times in Wetherby young offender institution in 2014/15, and 180 times in Hindley young offender institution.

No data is provided for Hassockfield secure training centre in Durham, where children were detained until November 2014. Data is included for Hindley young offender institution, which ceased holding children in January 2015.

Read the statistics in full here. Chapter 8, entitled behaviour management, includes the data on assaults, self-harm and restraint.

Read the Youth Justice Board’s press release here.

Two reports emphasise the risks (and realities) of rights violations

Two reports released yesterday underline the risks of rights violations in institutional settings.

The first, a leaked report obtained by the BBC, tells of a 17 year-old disabled girl who was living in a residential health setting in Plymouth. She was sedated and flown to an adult setting in Dundee, as she approached her 18th birthday in 2007. The BBC reports that no consent was sought or obtained from the girl, either for the medication or the transfer to Scotland. Her parents were also not consulted. The girl’s advocate opposed the actions but was ignored. Dr Gabriel Scally, the former head of public health in south-west England, fought to get an investigation into the unlawful treatment and was refused a copy of the subsequent report.

No information is contained in the BBC news piece about any recommendations the report may have made about wider implications for policy and practice. Clearly this case raises questions about the power of advocates to take action to defend the rights of children when there is an immediate threat of violation.

The second report was published by the prisons inspectorate and is a review of the Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint (MMPR) system introduced in secure training centres from 2013 and due to be used in all young offender institutions by July 2016. As the chief inspector of prisons explains in his introduction, MMPR was developed following the restraint-related deaths of two boys, Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood, in secure training centres in 2004. The review found:

  • Prison officers in young offender institutions regularly inflict severe pain as a form of restraint. These techniques would only be lawful in extreme situations, yet the inspectorate found “pain used for non-compliance and failure to obey staff instructions immediately. In one use of force record, the reason for use of pain was recorded as ‘refusal to move back to cell. Needed to move [child] to continue with the regime’.”

    Another shocking case concerns a child with a broken wrist (inspectors don’t say whether the injury occurred during restraint). The boy was threatened with pain because he refused to follow orders. Inspectors concluded, “Poor recording and unclear CCTV footage meant that we were unable to verify if a pain-inducing technique was actually used on the boy.”

    Spot checks on general restraint records revealed that pain had been used more times than the prisons had officially recorded.

  • Frequent reports of children struggling to breathe during restraint, with some staff sceptical that children are telling the truth when they complain of being unable to breathe. The report reminds readers that Gareth told the three officers holding him down that he couldn’t breathe. They refused to believe him, retorting: “If you can talk, you can breathe” and Gareth died within minutes.
  • “Several examples” of children having all of their clothes removed whilst being restrained. A case study graphically highlights the assault on children’s dignity: “One boy we spoke to was restrained after threatening staff with a broken plastic knife. Once staff had restrained him and taken the knife, he was moved to a special cell and asked to remove his clothes: ‘When they got me to the special cell they asked me to take my clothes off. I said I would … They took me straight to the floor, before I had a chance to do it myself. Someone put a knee in my back, which did hurt a lot. They took my shirt off completely, then my trousers, boxers and shoes. They chucked a jumper on me to cover my bum.’”
  • “Dangerous examples” of restraint being used on children with medical or other conditions. Inspectors report that, “In general, staff were unfamiliar with the content of [individual restraint] plans; this was a serious oversight that could have led to significant injuries.”
  • Girls being restrained in a way which evokes past abuse. For example, one girl reported, “‘One member of staff grabbed my neck and then others pushed me to the ground and held me there telling me to calm down. While I was on the floor a male member of staff was holding my head almost between his knees. I have been sexually abused in the past so you can imagine how that made me feel. I was terrified.’”
  • Inspectors watched CCTV footage of children being kept in a head hold whilst being walked up and down flights of stairs and across long distances. Painful techniques were used even after children had calmed down. Children’s accounts in the report include, “‘I had my wrist bent back; all the while I was walking up the stairs. It was really painful. I went up three landings with my neck and wrist in flexion.’” and “‘My wrists were behind my back and my head was pushed down and I was taken all the way to the seg like that. I wasn’t kicking or going mad but I was trying to struggle because I wanted to get some control back.’”

Many more examples of abusive treatment are contained in the inspectorate’s detailed report. Its 10 recommendations include the cessation of restraint techniques which deliberately inflict pain on children, no more strip-searching under restraint and Local Safeguarding Children Boards and local authorities ensuring they are equipped to maintain effective independent oversight of restraint.

Child prison restraint manual FOI appeal

Permission has been granted for an Upper Tribunal hearing on whether the manual governing the use of restraint on imprisoned children should be made public. A version of the manual was published by the Ministry of Justice in July 2012, with 182 redactions.

Within days of its publication, Article 39’s Director made a freedom of information request for a copy of the Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint (MMPR) manual without any redactions. Following the Ministry of Justice’s refusal, she appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which supported the government’s position that disclosure would threaten security in child and adult prisons. Then the First-Tier Tribunal said the likely risk to the security of adult prisons “was decisive” in its decision to support non-disclosure.

The Ministry of Justice had argued that violent adult prisoners could use the manual to subvert discipline, because there are “similarities” between the techniques authorised for child prisons and those which appear in the Use of Force manual for adult prisoners. When the MMPR manual was published in 2012, the then Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke referred to “a new system of restraint that has been specifically designed for use on young people in custody”.

The same arguments about prisoners developing restraint counter-techniques had been used in the past to prevent publication of the Physical Control in Care (PCC) manual, which governed restraint in secure training centres until 2012. That manual was forced into the public domain in October  2010, after a three-year FOI battle. Given the passage of time since the release of the PCC manual, it was reasonable to expect evidence to be presented of prisoners studying its pages and subverting discipline as a result, if such evidence existed.

Last month, Willow’s case went before Judge Kate Markus QC, who has granted permission for it to be heard by the Upper Tribunal. Acting on behalf of Willow, Ian Wise QC, from Monckton Chambers, argued that the First-Tier Tribunal had erred in law because all of the evidence had been in support of disclosure and the Ministry of Justice had not substantiated any of its claims. Secondly, Wise argued that the First-Tier Tribunal failed to consider Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in coming to its decision. This requires that the child’s best interests are treated as a primary consideration in all actions concerning the child.

The MMPR manual was developed by the Ministry of Justice following the restraint-related deaths of two children, Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood, in secure training centres run by G4S and Serco. Fifteen year-old Gareth died from positional asphyxia after he was held down by three officers using the ‘seated double embrace’ restraint technique. The so-called ‘nose distraction’, a severe swipe to the nose, was inflicted on 14 year-old Adam hours before he hanged himself. He left behind a note asking what gave officers the right to hit a child in the nose. Both restraint methods were subsequently withdrawn, and inquests into the two boys’ deaths severely criticised the lack of independent scrutiny of the techniques used on them.

Carolyne Willow says:

“This FOI request is about the protection of society’s most vulnerable children in the most hidden of all closed institutions. We learned many years ago, when the first revelations of abuse in residential care led to scores of inquiries and investigations, that secrecy endangers children. The deaths of Gareth and Adam, and the subsequent admissions of widespread unlawful restraint, should have led ministers to commit to transparency forever more.”

1. Ian Wise QC is representing Carolyne Willow pro bono. The FOI request was made nearly three years before Article 39 was formed.

2. The MMPR restraint techniques have been approved for use on children aged 12 to 17. Rainsbrook secure training centre, where Gareth Myatt died, was the first prison to transfer to MMPR, from April 2013. All three of the secure training centres use MMPR, and three of the five young offender institutions in England and Wales use it. The remaining two – Feltham and Parc – are expected to adopt MMPR early in 2016.

3. One-third of the restraint techniques in the MMPR manual involve officers deliberately inflicting pain on children, according to a 2011 report by the Restraint Advisory Board. Chaired by Professor Dame Sue Bailey, the Board provided independent scrutiny (though not accreditation) of the restraint methods proposed for child prisons by the Ministry of Justice’s National Tactical Response Group in the National Offender Management Service. One of the Board’s criticisms of the new MMPR techniques was that the National Tactical Response Group – colloquially known as the prison riot squad – had not been asked to devise a system without the deliberate infliction of pain. In 2013, the UN Committee Against Torture urged the UK to stop using the deliberate infliction of pain as a form of restraint in child prisons. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons has also condemned the practice.

4. Carolyne Willow’s book, Children Behind Bars, was published by Policy Press earlier this year. It is the first publication of its kind to expose the many harms of child imprisonment, and includes in-depth interviews with four mothers whose sons died in child prisons, including the mothers of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood.

5. The Upper Tribunal hearing will take place in London sometime between mid-December 2015 and February 2016.