No to pain-inducing restraint

LATEST: on 18 June 2020, Charlie Taylor’s review of pain-inducing restraint was published. This recommends the removal of pain-inducing techniques from the restraint syllabus taught to officers who work in child prisons and who escort children to and from institutions, including secure children’s homes. The government has accepted this and the other recommendations (there are 15 in all) made by Charlie Taylor.

Officers will continue to be trained and authorised to apply pain in emergency, self defence scenarios where there is no alternative. We await the detail of this, and will closely review and monitor the new legal protections and arrangements to ensure they comply with common law and the UK’s children’s human rights obligations.

This is a major milestone in child protection (see our news piece here). It has been a very long haul. Article 39’s legal challenge, which started in October 2018, led first to a review of the Ministry of Justice’s escort restraint policy, and then the wider Charlie Taylor review of the authorisation of pain-inducing restraint in all child prisons and during the escorting process.

In February last year, Article 39 was delighted that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) unequivocally recommended:

“The Chair and Panel consider that the use of pain compliance techniques should be seen as a form of child abuse, and that it is likely to contribute to a culture of violence, which may increase the risk of child sexual abuse. The Chair and Panel recommend that the Ministry of Justice prohibits the use of pain compliance techniques by withdrawing all policy permitting its use, and setting out that this practice is prohibited by way of regulation.”

We want to thank once again all those who contributed to our legal appeal in 2017, without whom we would have been unable to challenge the state’s authorisation of child abuse as a form of restraint.

We are extremely grateful to our fantastic legal team – Mark Scott, Partner at Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, and Dan Squires QC and Tamara Jaber from Matrix Chambers.

When pain-inducing restraint is finally removed from the syllabus, the credit for this must go to Adam Rickwood, a 14 year-old child. He was morally outraged and challenged the practice both verbally and in writing, in 2004.

Adam Rickwood photograph


“When I calmed down I asked them why they hit me in the nose and jumped on me. They said it was because I wouldn’t go in my room so I said what gives them the right to hit a 14-year-old child in the nose and they said it was restraint.”
– extract from note left by Adam, August 2004

The first and most important challenge to pain-inducing restraint came from 14 year-old Adam Rickwood. He was inflicted with the so-called ‘nose distraction’ in a Serco-run child prison in April 2004. His nose bled for around an hour.

Adam verbally questioned officers during the ‘restraint’. He then wrote a note for his solicitor recounting that he had asked what gave staff the right to hit a child in the nose, and they called it restraint. Adam wrote a separete letter to his family setting out his funeral wishes. He then hanged himself.

Use of the ‘nose distraction’ was suspended more than three years after Adam died, though officers continued to be trained and authorised to use other methods which cause children to suffer psychologically and physically.

Article 39’s Director wrote this piece for openDemocracy on the 15th anniversary of Adam’s death (8 August 2019).

Our submission to the Charlie Taylor Review on pain-inducing restraint (7 May 2019) can be downloaded here.

Steps towards the prohibition of pain-inducing restraint, from 2004 onwards

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