ADVICE FROM MEDWAY SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN BOARD: If you have any concerns about Medway secure training centre, please call 101 and ask for Operation Woodley.
13 October 2017 – Kent Online reports a prison officer charged with misconduct in public office is found not guilty. The jury took just 20 minutes to acquit him.
August 2017 – publication of Medway Safeguarding Children Board’s annual report for 2016/17. A number of changes within the child prison are outlined, including reviews of the use of restraint and an improved system for handling children’s complaints. However, the report states: “Medway STC’s Safeguarding Department is still in its infancy”. Medway secure training centre has been open since April 1998.
13 June 2017 – Medway secure training centre is judged by inspectors to be inadequate overall, and inadequate in keeping children safe. Among other serious concerns, inspectors note the senior person now leading safeguarding matters within the child prison “has no previous experience or qualifications in safeguarding children”.
13 February 2017 – BBC reports a serious case review has been launched into the significant harm suffered by children at Medway secure training centre, when it was run by G4S.
21 November 2016 – Kent Online reports a former custody officer at Medway is convicted of taking five selfies from within the prison, to prove to his girlfriend he was at work.
2 November 2016 – BBC reports the assault case against a former Medway officer has been dismissed. The prosecution told the court that CCTV footage appeared to show the 24 year-old manager striking a child in the face. Afterwards, the boy seemed “to clutch his face for some time”. The 15 year-old refused to pursue a complaint against the manager, telling a social worker he “probably deserved it”. The defence said the incident was banter and the footage (with no recorded sound) failed to show the manager’s hand connecting with the boy. The Chair of the Magistrates’ Bench concluded, “We feel we cannot properly convict Ms Harold based on the evidence we have seen and therefore there is no case to answer”.
21 September 2016 – Kent Online reports there have been seven more arrests of former Medway staff.
8 August 2016 – Ofsted publishes the report from its June inspection. The centre, then still run by G4S, is rated inadequate in four of seven areas, including the safety of children and leadership. 29 children were detained in Medway at the time of the inspection. It is to be assumed G4S was still being paid to look after 76 children.
13 July 2016 – Kent Police announces a female custody officer has been charged with common assault of a child. Nine other custody officers are still under investigation, and two further officers have been released without charge.
1 July 2016 – Medway secure training centre transfers from G4S to government control.
12 May 2016 – Report of the Medway Improvement Board published.
5 May 2016 – BBC reports that the Government is to take over the running of Medway secure training centre.
18 April 2016 – BBC reports that East Sussex Council Corporate Parenting Panel would be discussing G4S Medway later that week, following an abuse disclosure by one of the council’s children in care, who was placed at the centre. The abuse was alleged to have happened during a different time period than that captured by the BBC’s secret filming.
20 March 2016 – Guardian publishes Article 39 Director’s letter in response to news that children being placed again at G4S Medway:
Let’s get this straight. Two months after film evidence of serious physical and emotional abuse of vulnerable children, and less than a fortnight since the Guardian published a dossier of further allegations, children are being sent again to G4S-run Medway secure training centre (Report, 18 March). The reason? Apparently none of the agencies with statutory duties to protect children, and monitor their care, have raised safeguarding concerns in recent weeks. But these are the very same agencies that had no idea, we are told, that children were being physically and verbally assaulted, or that officers were using restraint as a cover for abuse.
A report by six experienced inspectors from Ofsted and the prisons inspectorate, published on 26 January, said a small number of children had reported mistreatment, which was “consistent” with the BBC evidence, and the inspectorates “have significant concerns about the centre”. Are we meant to believe that all of the allegations have been dealt with in the intervening weeks?
G4S can now, with some confidence, inform present and prospective shareholders that, within weeks of the appalling allegations, the UK government was happy again to place children in its care.
17 March 2016 – media informed that Youth Justice Board has resumed placing children at G4S Medway.
15 March 2016 – in-cell telephones to be installed in G4S Medway, so each child can make phone calls lasting a total of 20 minutes a day, at designated times and to pre-approved numbers. The company installing and operating the telephone system, Unify, has several other contracts with the prison service, and states on its website that prisoners’ calls are monitored and recorded.
26 February 2016 – hours before the Guardian newspaper publishes further abuse allegations in respect of G4S Medway, dating back to 2003 and including senior management, the international security firm announces it is selling the two contracts it has with the UK government to run child jails (including Medway), plus 13 children’s homes.
26 February 2016 – in response to a parliamentary question from Jo Stevens MP, prisons minister Andrew Selous gives more information on the two fines incurred by G4S in respect of Medway since 1997: “the two occasions on which financial remedies were applied took place between February and April 2015 and May and July 2015. G4S failed to comply with operational procedures, meaning that the number of incidents that took place was higher than the agreed level”. (On 4 September 2015, the Youth Justice Board announced G4S had won the five-year contract to run Medway).
12 February 2016 – Medway Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) is to commission a review of the abuse of children in G4S Medway. Statutory safeguarding guidance states, “when things go wrong there needs to be a rigorous, objective analysis of what happened and why, so that important lessons can be learnt and services improved to reduce the risk of future harm to children”. Findings from LSCB-commissioned reviews must invoke “programmes of action which lead to sustainable improvements and the prevention of death, serious injury or harm to children”, the guidance requires. A decision will be made by the LCSB in April as to whether the investigation it commissions will be a serious case review (which must be undertaken when a child has died or been seriously harmed and there are concerns about how agencies worked together) or a case review. Final reports from serious case reviews must be published.
9 February 2016 – in response to a parliamentary question from Andy Slaughter MP, prisons minister Andrew Sealous states G4S has been fined twice for breach of contract since 1997, with the total penalty amounting to £1221.87. He adds, “We are examining whether the allegations made by Panorama would constitute a breach of contract”. The Panorama programme was broadcast on 11 January.
27 January 2016 – in response to a parliamentary question from Jo Stevens MP, home office minister Mike Penning releases data showing number of restraints that have led to children being injured between 2008 and 2014. The figure for Medway secure training centre is 809 incidents across this period.
26 January 2016 – Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust announces it has reinstated the suspended healthcare member of staff, who witnessed alleged unlawful restraint on a vulnerable child. Trust says the member of staff had no case to answer.
26 January 2016 – Justice Secretary Michael Gove announces he has established an Independent Improvement Board to “provide increased oversight, scrutiny and challenge of managerial arrangements, in particular in relation to the safeguarding of young people”. Despite safeguarding being a primary function, none of the Board members have a child protection background. The Board’s Chair, Dr Gary Holden, is the chief executive officer and executive principal of The Williamson Trust, an academy chain in Kent. Other Board members are:
- Bernard Allen, expert in behaviour management and the use of restraint
- Emily Thomas, interim governor of HM Prison Holloway and former governor of Cookham Wood young offender institution
- Sharon Gray OBE, an education consultant and former head teacher with experience of working with children with behavioural difficulties, including in residential settings.
26 January 2016 – in response to recent findings of Ofsted and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, G4S announces Medway’s director is to “step down with immediate effect”.
26 January 2016 – advice note from Ofsted and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons is published. Inspectors carried out confidential interviews with 20 children at the centre (none were the 10 children involved in the police investigation). The note explains, “Young people spoken to by inspectors were generally positive about the quality of relationships with staff and felt safe in the centre”. However, “a small number of young people described some staff using insulting, aggressive or racist language, not always challenging poor behaviour and feeling unsafe in areas not covered by CCTV”, inspectors report. The two organisations conclude they “have significant concerns about the centre” and “Managerial oversight failed to protect young people from harm”. They urge the appointment of a commissioner to bring “additional external oversight of the governance of the centre”. They also recommend body cameras across all institutions, with footage reviewed by a senior manager. Finally, they state “there should to be an enquiry into the failings at Medway and the implications of this for the wider youth justice system”.
25 January 2016 – Children and Young People Now magazine reports that the chair of the Medway LSCB says a decision will be reached by 30 January as to whether a serious case review will be commissioned in respect of G4S Medway.
24 January 2016 – Guardian newspaper reveals G4S Medway currently has 47 children but the company is being paid to look after 76, and 11 staff have been suspended.
22 January 2016 – in response to a parliamentary question from Jo Stevens MP, prisons minister Andrew Selous states the government is “currently considering how to proceed including looking at whether the contract was breached”.
21 January 2016 – in response to a parliamentary question from Karl Turner MP, prisons minister Andrew Selous sets out the timings of statutiory agencies being notified of the G4S Medway child abuse allegations:
- Wednesday 30 December – the Youth Justice Board was informed of the allegations by Medway Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) and Panorama. It immediately stopped children being placed at the centre and suspended the certification of the staff allegedly involved
- Monday 4 January – Medway LSCB contacted the local authorities of the 10 children named by Panorama
- Friday 8 January – the Youth Justice Board contacted all youth offending teams and all Directors of Children’s Services.
21 January 2016 – Medway Council considered “the serious recent allegations towards G4S regarding their conduct at Medway Secure Training Centre”. Minutes of the meeting note the criteria and process for establishing a serius case review and conclude, “Any review would thoroughly, independently and openly investigate the issues”.
20 January 2016 – parliamentary debate on safety in youth custody held in Westminister Hall. Initiated by Bradford South Labour MP, Judith Cummins.
19 January 2016 – in response to a parliamentary question from Andy Slaughter MP, prisons minister Andrew Selous confirms that the Youth Justice Board reviews and approves all secure training centre staff, temporary and permanent, prior to them taking up post.
18 January 2016 – in response to a parliamentary question from Andy Slaughter MP, prisons minister Andrew Selous reports on action taken following BBC Panorama allegations:
“Kent Police and Medway Council’s child protection team have launched an investigation into the allegations made about Medway Secure Training Centre (STC). The Ministry of Justice and Youth Justice Board will do everything we can to assist and support the investigation. Our immediate priority has been to make sure that the young people in custody at Medway are safe, which is why HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Ofsted visited the STC last week.
The YJB have ceased placements into the STC with immediate effect. They have also increased their own monitoring at Medway and that of the independent advocacy service provided by Barnardo’s.
We are currently considering how we can best ensure young people at Medway are in a safe, secure and rehabilitative environment and any further decisions will be announced in the normal way.”
15 January 2016 – chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, talks about G4S Medway on BBC Radio 5 Live. Draws analogy with playground bullying experienced or witnessed by most adults as children, “but this time the bullies were 18 stone”. Discusses the courage and determination needed by staff who whistle blow (none appear to have done so in this institution); why children can’t / don’t disclose such abuse; and the “grooming” of the BBC undercover reporter/ new staff member by more experienced G4S officers.
14 January 2016 – BBC reports that four men have been arrested and bailed for child neglect, and one man has been arrested and bailed for assault of a child.
14 January 2016 – Jenny Molloy, care leaver, author and BASW England’s Patron, writes in Community Care magazine about her anger and frustration over G4S Children’s Services briefing that children have telephones in their cells and can access ChildLine. Speaking about the violence she endured as a child, first at home and then in care, she challenges any notion that children must be held responsible “for reporting their own abuse”. She also asks, “why are children, who could live in a non-prison setting, in Medway secure training centre?” and discusses the criminalisation of children in care.
14 January 2016 – a joint letter in The Times from eight charities and a leading youth justice specialist urges transfer of children from G4S Medway and an independent inquiry.
Sir, Serious questions may have to be asked about G4S Children’s Services and other agencies working in Medway Secure Training Centre after allegations of abuse and mistreatment of children there (report, Jan 8). If the alleged ill-treatment occurred, why did it take undercover filming to expose it and why was it not found earlier by G4S managers, the Youth Justice Board and others, including the NHS and the charity Barnardo’s?
Investigations are under way by Kent Police and children’s services, and remedial action is taking place — but this does not address the longstanding risks to children’s safety and wellbeing. Arrangements must now be made for the planned transfer of children from G4S Medway, and other institutions like it, to settings where we can be sure they will be safe, respected and properly cared for. Then we need an independent inquiry into child prisons so that we can understand the scale of any abuse and learn how to look after children well.
Carolyne Willow, Director, Article 39
Deborah Coles, Co-Director, INQUEST
Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive, YoungMinds
Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England
Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive, The Who Cares? Trust
Pam Hibbert OBE, Independent Youth Justice Specialist
Louise King & Carla Garnelas, Co-Directors, Children’s Rights Alliance for England
Shauneen Lambe, Executive Director, Just for Kids Law
Bridget Robb, Chief Executive, The British Association of Social Workers
14 January 2016 – G4S issues fourth press release quoting Managing Director for Children’s Services, Paul Cook: “We fully support the action of Kent Police this morning and we continue to provide police officers and the local authority with full access to Medway STC and the centre’s records including CCTV footage. There is no place in our business for the conduct shown on the BBC’s Panorama programme on Monday night. This morning’s arrests send a strong message that any allegations of wrongdoing will be thoroughly investigated and we are grateful to the police for their swift action in this case. We will work with the police and local authority to keep our own actions under review in light of today’s developments. We will keep families and other professionals working with young people informed of developments as we are asked to do so. We are committed to a complete review of how this occurred and how we can ensure it doesn’t happen again”.
13 January 2016 – Children and Young People Now magazine reports that the Youth Justice Board is to commission an independent review of children’s perceptions of safety in G4S Medway. In addition, the Youth Justice Board will start its own review, “probably next week”, of safeguarding in Oakhill and Rainsbrook secure training centres, also run by G4S.
13 January 2016 – Yvonne Rose Bailey, mother of Joseph Scholes, writes to Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, urging him to have political courage to establish judge-led public inquiry into the deaths and abuse of children in custody.
12 January 2016 – 38 Degress launches an online petition to strip G4S of its contract to run Medway secure training centre.
12 January 2016 – Children’s Commissioner announces she has extended her organisation’s advice line to G4S Medway.
12 January 2016 – Prison Reform Trust says “The evidence Panorama has produced is profoundly shocking” and Ministers must be considering the future of G4S Medway. On child imprisonment generally, the charity explains, “The abuse of authority by staff is a constant and severe risk in any custodial institution. It is one of many reasons why locking up children must always be an absolute last resort”.
12 January 2016 – G4S issues third press release, stating it has sacked the four officers it suspended on 30 December; is keeping another three on suspension; and an eighth officer “has been removed from operational duty pending further investigation”.
12 January 2016 – Howard League for Penal Reform says children should be moved from G4S Medway “in next few days”; calls for G4S contract to be rescinded; and says the institution is “rotten to the core”. Also urges Ministers to consider whether the company should repay taxpayers.
11 January 2016 – Article 39 calls for G4S Medway to be closed.
11 January 2016 – G4S issues second press release following the broadcast of ‘Teenage Prison Abuse Exposed’. Paul Cook, the Managing Director of G4S Children’s Services says, “We are appalled by the behaviour of certain members of staff at Medway Secure Training Centre shown in the programme and I would like to apologise personally to any young people involved in these incidents. The wellbeing, safety and care of the young people at Medway is our primary objective and we are shocked that any member of staff would behave in this way.” Same release explains G4S has “requested copies of all of the evidence collected by BBC Panorama between August and December 2015 in order for us to conduct a thorough investigation”.
11 January, 20.30, BBC ONE BROADCASTS PANORAMA’S ‘TEENAGE PRISON ABUSE EXPOSED’
11 January 2016 – Youth Justice Board issues its second press release, stating, “We are shocked and very concerned about the allegations against staff at Medway STC. The safety of the children at secure establishments is of paramount importance to the YJB”. It anounces measures to ensure children across all three secure training centres are “safe and supported”. (The three centres are Medway, Oakhill in Milton Keynes and Rainsbrook in Northamptonshire).
11 January 2016, 15.40 – urgent question asked in House of Commons by Andy Slaughter MP. Justice Secretary Michael Gove answered questions about G4S and child prisons from 22 concerned MPs. The Minister’s responses included:
“The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the allegations that he has listed are very serious, but they are allegations, and it is important that we give G4S and those involved the appropriate time and space to respond in a way that is congruent with the seriousness of the allegations. It is because I take the allegations seriously that I do not want to rush to judgment or do anything that could be used to enable those who might be guilty of serious offences to wriggle off the hook.
“I had the opportunity to meet the editor of “Panorama”, as well as the programme’s producer and the director who was responsible for this investigation, on the eve of the publication of the allegations in The Times and elsewhere on 8 January. It was as a result of that conversation that I had discussions with members of the Youth Justice Board and that we took the steps that I outlined earlier in my statement. It was also as result of that conversation that the roles of the YJB monitor and of Barnardo’s, which also visits the establishment, were enhanced to ensure that the safety of the children at that centre could be guaranteed to the best of our ability.
“The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that G4S has, in a number of other ways, at times in the past, let the Ministry of Justice and those in our care down. It is also important to stress, however, that there are other institutions run by G4S that continue to do a good job, and it would be quite wrong to make a blanket allegation against the organisation of the kind that I know the hon. Gentleman did not make but that others might be tempted to.
“The hon. Gentleman was also right to make reference to the remarks of the outgoing chief inspector, Nick Hardwick. I thank Nick Hardwick for the superb work he has done. His candour and honesty in that role serve only to underline the scale of what we have to do to ensure that children and young people in custody and everyone else in prison are in a safe and decent environment, and nothing will stop us making sure that safety and decency are at the forefront of the changes that we bring to our prison and secure training centre estate.”
“There should be no limits on our capacity to investigate wrongdoing, wherever we find it. He rightly says we need to consider and reflect on inspection and monitoring to make sure it is fit for purpose. I have absolute confidence and faith in Her Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons, but we do need always to keep under review the powers available to our inspections. There is a telephone line that enables people in STCs to call Barnardo’s. Barnardo’s was visiting the site three days a week, but that has now been doubled and its volunteers and professionals visit six days a week. We will, of course, do everything we can do to reassure young people that if they are victims of abuse, they will be heard.
“I had the opportunity to talk to Mr Plomin, the producer-director of this [Panorama] programme, and he explained to me that in investigative journalism of this kind it normally takes between two to three months to establish and marshal the evidence necessary to build a case worthy of investigation. That is obviously a matter for the BBC, but it should be stressed that this “Panorama” producer-director was involved in the investigation into Winterbourne View as well, so he is someone with a track record in uncovering unacceptable practices.
“The transfer [of Rainsbrook secure training centre] from G4S to MTCnovo should reinforce some of the changes that are already taking place, which ensure that children and young people are better looked after. I had the opportunity to visit Rainsbrook, where I saw that staff were taking very seriously some of the unhappy practices that had been reported in the past and were determined to improve the care of young people.
“Ideally, we should prevent young people from getting into custody in the first place. Obviously, there are some people for whom custody is an appropriate response, but we should seek to intervene much earlier in the lives of these young people—whether that is through ensuring that they have appropriate education, that there is intervention from social workers in their family circumstances or that the criminal justice system is much more thoughtful in the way in which it treats them.
“Neither I, the Youth Justice Board nor the Ministry are in denial about the scale of the problem that we face. One reason why we initiated this review, which started in September, was that we realised that there was much that needed to be done to improve the care and welfare of young people in custody and those who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
“It is appropriate and important that the option of custody is always available. There will be some young offenders for whom a custodial sentence is appropriate, but it is also right, in particular where we can keep people out of custody and deal with drug, alcohol or substance abuse or mental health problems, that we make sure that there is an appropriate intervention that keeps them out of the sometimes tough and brutal environment of prison, but only if we can be certain that the intervention is getting their life back on track.
“Although it is understandable that criticism of G4S will be heard again in the light of these allegations, and that it will become more intense if the allegations are sustained, it is nevertheless important that we take a step back and recognise that it is also the nature of our youth justice system that needs to change.”
11 January 2016 – G4S issues a fact sheet on Medway, setting out the action it has taken since being alerted by the BBC of the abuse allegations and the arrangements for governance and vetting staff. It reports 40 child protection allegations were passed to the local authority designated officer during 2015. Only one of these was judged to be unfounded, though 27 were said to unsubstantiated. The briefing does not state how many were investigated under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989, the part of the law governing statutory child protection enquiries.
8 January 2016 – BBC reports “G4S has written to the BBC to try to stop broadcast of the footage, arguing filming was unauthorised and illegal”.
8 January 2016 – Yvonne Rose Bailey, mother of Joseph Scholes, says “heartbreaking to hear yet more allegations of abuse of children”. In 2004, the coroner presiding over the inquest into the death of Joseph in Stoke Heath young offender institution wrote to the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, urging a public inquiry into the boy’s death. No such inquiry has ever been granted into the deaths of any of the 34 children who have died in custody between 1990 and 2015.
8 January 2016 – Children and Young People Now reports Gareth Jones, Chair of Association of Youth Offending Team (YOT) Managers, urging any concerned parents to contact the YOT team working with their child. Same piece quotes Article 39’s Director, Carolyne Willow: “If these allegations are proven to be true, there can be no denying that child abuse has been endemic in this G4S-run prison. These are not isolated allegations; there have been serious concerns about secure training centres from the start. An independent child abuse inquiry must be established to investigate the full extent of mistreatment within the centres, and the mechanisms available to children to report their concerns and seek outside help.”
“If these allegations are proven to be true, there can be no denying that child abuse has been endemic in this G4S-run prison.”“These are not isolated allegations; there have been serious concerns about secure training centres from the start. An independent child abuse inquiry must be established to investigate the full extent of mistreatment within the centres, and the mechanisms available to children to report their concerns and seek outside help.
8 January 2016 – Youth Justice Board issues a press release stating, “immediate steps have been taken to safeguard those who are at Medway STC”.
8 January 2016 – INQUEST Co-Director, Deborah Coles, quoted in Guardian newspaper piece about G4S Medway: “That it took undercover filming to reveal the mistreatment of imprisoned children points to the culpable failure of monitoring and oversight by the YJB and G4S. In any other setting this would be viewed as child abuse. What is so shocking is that the abuse of children continues 12 years after the deaths of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood and 15-year-old Gareth Myatt following the use of force and promises of fundamental change. This points to a lack of accountability and culture of impunity. It is clear these institutions are incapable of reform and must be closed down”.
8 January 2016 – G4S issues press release on the abuse allegations. This includes a statement from Paul Cook, Managing Director of G4S Children’s Services: “We are treating the allegations with the utmost gravity and have taken immediate action to suspend a number of staff members who are alleged to have conducted themselves in a manner which is not in line with our standards. We take any allegations of unacceptable or inappropriate behaviour extremely seriously and are giving our full support and co-operation to the LADO and the police as the investigation moves forward”. Paul Cook interviewed by G4S (film).
30 December 2015 – G4S is informed by BBC Panorama of the allegations.
Oct-Dec 2015 – undercover reporter for BBC Panorama films children being subject to physical and mental abuse in G4S Medway. Footage also shows officers discussing fabricating restraint records, and misreporting incidents to the Youth Justice Board.