Category: Secure escorts

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

Medical assessment of restraint

Article 39 has obtained a copy of the Independent Medical Assessor’s rating of different restraint techniques and scenarios applying to:

  • children in custody;
  • children escorted to custody; and
  • children being deported on aircraft.

This is the first time this information has entered the public domain. We elicited the information through freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice, prompted by the Government’s announcement that escorts taking children to secure children’s homes would now be using the Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint (MMPR) techniques. One-third of the MMPR techniques rely on officers deliberately inflicting pain.

The Guardian newspaper has reported our findings.

Staff working in secure children’s homes are prohibited from deliberately inflicting pain during restraint. Children in secure children’s homes can be as young as 10. In May 2016, the same month escorts taking children to secure children’s homes started using MMPR, Ofsted issued advice on children’s homes inspections which states:

“Ofsted does not condone or support any method of restraint that inflicts pain or any care arrangement that is abusive or emotionally harmful.”

The deliberate infliction of pain during restraint in child prisons has been criticised by many bodies including the UN Torture Committee, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and the UK’s four Children’s Commissioners.

Each restraint technique and scenario (there are 66 in all) is rated according to the likelihood of harm occurring to children, and to the level and type of harm potentially suffered.

28 of the 66 techniques / scenarios are rated as 2 out of five for the likelihood of children’s airway, breathing or circulation being affected – with the potential consequence of death or permanent severe disability.

Moving a child who is wearing the ‘waist restraint belt’ through a doorway is given a 3 out of 5 risk rating for breathing difficulties that could cause catastrophic harm (death or permanent severe disability).

Children being taken to hospital is rated a “minor” consequence of restraint and hospital admission is rated “moderate”. Only hospital admission that carries a risk to the child of long term disability is rated as “major”.

Children strip-searched on the floor while held under restraint is rated as having a 4 out of 5 likelihood of fracture/dislocation and ligament/tendon damage requiring hospital attendance.

Many scenarios are more likely than not (rated 3 out of 5) to result in a child having to attend or be admitted to hospital.

The document includes a risk assessment of children being held face down on the floor and inflicted with pain. There is also reference to the waist restraint belt being applied to a compliant child.

The medical assessment does not consider the likelihood of children suffering psychological harm.

GeoAmey holds the contract for escorting children to secure children’s homes and child prisons.

We are now considering how the law may be used to protect vulnerable children taken by escort to secure children’s homes.

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.