In July 2017, Article 39 successfully crowdfunded to legally challenge the use of pain and unjustified restraint during children’s frightening journeys to and from secure children’s homes. Children can be detained in these locked children’s homes from the age of 10.
- Escort custody officers employed by GEOAmey are allowed to use force to make children follow orders.
- Incredible as it sounds, they have been authorised and trained to deliberately inflict pain on children as a form of restraint.
These arrangements are in striking contrast to the rules that must be followed within secure children’s homes, where staff are banned from deliberately inflicting pain on children and can only use force to prevent injury, serious damage to property or a child running away.
The Department for Education is in charge of restraint rules within secure children’s homes, whereas the Ministry of Justice governs policy in respect of children’s journeys to and from custodial institutions, and within child prisons.
Our legal challenge led first to a review of the Ministry of Justice’s escort restraint policy, and then the Government deciding to commission a wider review of the authorisation of pain-inducing restraint in all child prisons and during the escorting process.
The review is being conducted by Charlie Taylor, Chair of the Youth Justice Board (though not in that capacity). It is expected to conclude by summer 2019. Our judicial review application was stayed by the High Court pending the outcome of both Charlie Taylor’s review and the inquiry being conducted by parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights.
However, at the end of February 2019, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse concluded that pain-inducing restraint is a form of child abuse which must be legally prohibited. Article 39 is now urging the Ministry of Justice to implement this recommendation as a matter of urgency.
The devastating effects of pain-inducing restraint on children came to the public’s attention in 2004, when 14 year-old Adam Rickwood hanged himself in a child prison run by Serco. Adam had been unlawfully restrained and inflicted with the ‘nose distraction’ technique, which caused his nose to bleed for around an hour. Officers ignored his pleas to be taken to hospital. Before taking his own life, Adam wrote a note for his solicitor explaining that he had asked officers what gave them the right to hit a child in the nose. The technique was later withdrawn though officers continue to be trained and authorised to use other methods which cause children to suffer psychologically and physically.
The Ministry of Justice’s terms of reference for Charlie Taylor’s review can be found in this letter from Justice Minister Edward Argar to the Chair of the Justice Committee in Parliament.