Tag: Children’s rights

Pain-inducing restraint of vulnerable children: legal challenge on hold

Adam Rickwood photograph
Adam Rickwood hanged himself in 2004, aged 14, after Serco officers unlawfully restrained him – including by striking him in the nose. The ‘nose distraction’ was then an authorised restraint technique.

Article 39’s application for permission to apply for judicial review of the authorisation of pain-inducing restraint on children has been stayed pending the Charlie Taylor Review and the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.

This means we can return to court should children’s human rights continue to be breached after both investigations have concluded.

With financial backing from 196 donors, we have been challenging the Ministry of Justice’s authorisation of pain-inducing restraint during detained children’s journeys to and from secure children’s homes. GEOAmey holds the contract for prisoner and secure escorts. 

We have argued that the Government’s policy breaches children’s rights to protection from inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and to protection from discrimination, under Articles 3 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Pain-inducing restraint within secure children’s homes is banned. 

We are also pressing for clear and public rules setting out when children may be restrained during their journeys to and from places of detention. 

Our challenge led the Ministry of Justice to review its policy on pain-inducing restraint during children’s journeys to and from custody. It then committed to a much wider review of pain-inducing restraint across young offender institutions, secure training centres and secure children’s homes – as well as the escorting process. This is being undertaken by Charlie Taylor and is expected to report no later than Summer 2019.

Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights is also conducting an inquiry into the solitary confinement and restraint of children in custody. The Committee recommended the abolition of pain-inducing restraint techniques in children’s custodial institutions in 2008 and 2009. Since then the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee Against Torture have all urged the withdrawal of these harmful techniques.

Article 39’s Director, Carolyne Willow, said:

“With the Charlie Taylor Review, this is the first time Ministers have commissioned a stand-alone investigation of the deliberate infliction of pain on vulnerable children. This has only happened because of our legal challenge, and we are extremely grateful to all those who donated funds and to our excellent legal team.  

“This year is the fifteenth anniversary of the death of Adam Rickwood, a 14-year-old boy who hanged himself after officers deliberately assaulted him in the nose – which was then an authorised method of restraint. A second inquest into his death found he had been unlawfully restrained. 

“It’s been a very long wait to get this basic child protection, where members of staff are not allowed to strike a child in the name of restraint, but we are now the closest we have ever been.

“There is no question that we will return to court should the Charlie Taylor and Joint Committee on Human Rights’ reviews not result in children receiving the protection to which they are entitled.”

Article 39 is represented by Mark Scott, Partner at Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, and Dan Squires QC and Tamara Jaber from Matrix Chambers.

Article 39 to set up national advocates network

In July 2018, Article 39 conducted an online survey of independent advocates in England. The findings give insight into their experiences, their workload and challenges, the groups of children they work with and what would help advocates give the best help to children and young people.

Article 39’s Assistant Director, Helen Donohoe, said:

“This survey reinforces our previous concerns that the provision of independent advocacy for vulnerable children and young people in England is inconsistent and disjointed. The results also show unequivocal support for a form of training from Article 39 and greater peer-to-peer connection and support. In response to that we will launch a nationwide advocates network in early 2019.”

Read the survey report here: Article 39 The 2018 survey of independent advocates.

Article 39 and The Care Leavers’ Association join forces to defend child protection rights in the Supreme Court

13 July 2018
Article 39 and The Care Leavers’ Association have been granted permission to intervene in a case (CN v Poole), which will be heard in the Supreme Court on 16/17 July.

We jointly applied to intervene because we are extremely concerned about justice being denied to the children, young people and adults we serve. We believe the wrong decision in this case could prevent those who have experienced abuse in care and custodial settings from being able to seek legal redress and compensation.

In December 2017 the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal made on behalf of two individuals who, as young children, were subject to serious harassment and abuse from a family that lived close to their home.

The children were cared for by their mother. Their accommodation had been arranged by Poole housing authority, which was aware of their neighbours’ persistent anti-social behaviour.

CN has severe physical and learning difficulties. When he was aged 9, he tried to take his own life because of the serious abuse he suffered from the nearby family.

The Court of Appeal rejected arguments that Poole Borough Council should have used its Children Act 1989 powers to protect the young brothers from harm, perhaps even by temporarily moving them from their mother’s care.

But the court went much further. It decided that local authorities can no longer be held liable for negligence when a child has suffered harm due to their failure to act. Such claims had been possible since 2003.

Article 39 has longstanding concerns about the difficulties children in institutional settings face in reporting abuse, being believed and receiving care and support to help them recover from mistreatment.

We asked all English local authorities to provide us with information about allegations against staff working in institutional settings. Of those that provided detailed data – 34 councils – we found that only 24% of 1,389 allegations resulted in an official child protection investigation.[i]

When councils undertake child protection investigations they are under a duty to listen to the child. They must consider taking action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. A child who has been abused or suffered some other trauma may need counselling, extra help with their education and/or changes within their living environment and daily care. If councils fail to act to protect a child from institutional abuse, this can have devastating and long-lasting consequences.

The Care Leavers Association has numerous first-hand accounts from adult care leavers of abuse they have experienced as children in the care system. Over recent decades there have been many enquiries focusing on such abuse of looked after children. Such abuse – whether physical, sexual, emotional or through neglect – can have severe effects on a person, both at the time and throughout their later adult life.

If the Court of Appeal’s decision is upheld by the Supreme Court it could, at its worst, remove the duty of care from local authorities in respect of all child protection functions. This would have a disproportionate effect on looked after children, and on adults who were in care or custody as children. We need to revert to the 2003 position to ensure accountability where professionals and organisations failed to take appropriate action to prevent or stop abuse. Being able to pursue a claim for negligence can achieve a real sense of justice and provide a route to some financial compensation that helps to address the long-term consequences of abuse in childhood.

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“We are delighted to have been given permission to intervene in this very significant case. With The Care Leavers’ Association, we want to help the court consider local authorities’ obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to understand the terrible impact that abuse can have on children, especially when they have tried to seek help but are ignored and left to cope alone with profound psychological pain, isolation and confusion. We appreciate that local authorities are under great financial strain but children’s rights to safety and recovery must be robustly defended.”

David Graham, National Director of The Care Leavers’ Association, said:

It is incomprehensible that a local authority would not face the legal consequences for not doing enough to prevent abuse and neglect to young people in care. But the important thing to remember is this is not just about blame, or legal outcomes. It is about the lives of many young people and adults affected by abuse and neglect experienced as children. It is essential that they have legal recourse to challenge the decisions and omissions that facilitated those damaging experiences. We are determined to work with Article 39 and our legal team to right this wrong.”

[i] Undertaken under Section 47 the Children Act 1989. Section 47 requires local authorities who have reasonable cause to suspect that a child in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, to make enquiries to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. Article 39’s freedom of information request was made in 2015 and local authorities were asked to provide data for the preceding three years.

Article 39 and The Care Leavers’ Association are represented by Oliver Studdert and Peter Garsden from Simpson Millar Solicitors and Aswini Weereratne QC, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Nicholas Brown from Doughty Street Chambers.

PLEASE NOTE: If you have been abused in care or custody, or anywhere else, the criminal law has not changed and your right to bring a claim under the Human Rights Act 1998 is also not affected by this case.

Child health bodies urge ban on solitary confinement in custody

The British Medical Association, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have issued a joint position statement calling for the prohibition of solitary confinement in child prisons and secure children’s homes. The health bodies say:

There is an unequivocal body of evidence on the profound impact solitary confinement can have on health and wellbeing.

Various studies indicate an increased risk of suicide or self-harm amongst those placed in solitary confinement.

As children are still in the crucial stages of developing socially, psychologically, and neurologically, there are serious risks of solitary confinement causing long-term psychiatric and developmental harm.

There is also clear evidence that it is counter-productive. Rather than improving behaviour, solitary confinement fails to address the underlying causes, and creates problems with reintegration.

For these reasons, there is a growing international consensus – from groups including the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture – that solitary confinement should never be used on children and young people.

In light of its potential to cause harm, and in the absence of compelling evidence for its use, we call for an end to the use of solitary confinement on children and young people detained in the youth justice system.”

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“There is absolutely no justification for this cruel and normalised practice of physically and psychologically isolating children. Solitary confinement causes terrible suffering and police, health and social care agencies would be knocking down doors to help children escape such treatment in any other setting.”

Read the full joint statement here.

Minister urged not to weaken children and young people’s legal protections

With 27 other organisations and 15 social work experts, Article 39 has written to the Minister in charge of children’s social care, Nadhim Zahawi MP, to urge him not to accept five recommendations in the fostering stocktake

The fostering stocktake was undertaken by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers. They made 36 recommendations in total, five of which concern the law (numbers 4, 6, 7, 8 and 33). If accepted by the Minister, the five legal recommendations would weaken children and young people’s protections – affecting those entering care, living in care and leaving care.

Our joint letter can be viewed here (different site).

Signatories to the letter
Article 39
Association of Independent Visitors and Consultants to Child Care Services
Association of Lawyers for Children
Association of Professors of Social Work
Become
British Association of Social Workers England
The Care Leavers’ Association
Children England
Children’s Rights Alliance for England
CoramBAAF
The Fostering Network
Howard League for Penal Reform
Independent Children’s Homes Association
Legal Action for Women
The MAC Project (Central England Law Centre and the Astraea Project)
Nagalro
National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC)
National Association for Youth Justice
National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers
Napo: the professional association and trade union for Probation and Family Court workers
NYAS
Parents of Traumatised Adopted Teens Organisation
Refugee Council
Siblings Together
Single Mothers’ Self-Defence
Southwark Law Centre
South West London Law Centres
UNISON

Dr Maggie Atkinson, freelance consultant and former Children’s Commissioner for England
Dr Liz Davies, Emeritus Reader in Child Protection, London Metropolitan University
Brid Featherstone, Professor of Social Work, University of Huddersfield
Anna Gupta, Professor of Social Work, Royal Holloway University of London
Pam Hibbert OBE
Ray Jones, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, Kingston University and St George’s, University of London
Dr Mark Kerr, Managing Partner, The Centre for Outcomes of Care
Jenny Molloy, Author, Adviser and Trainer
Kate Morris, Professor of Social Work, University of Sheffield
Peter Saunders, Founder NAPAC
Mike Stein, Emeritus Professor, University of York
June Thoburn CBE, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of East Anglia
Judith Timms OBE
Jane Tunstill, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, Royal Holloway, London University
Sue White, Professor of Social Work, University of Sheffield