Tag: Restraint

First restraint legislation passed by MPs

Article 39 is delighted that the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill has passed through the Commons. We have been working on the Bill all this year, as part of a coalition of mental health and human rights charities co-ordinated by YoungMinds. This is the first standalone law in the UK specifically designed to protect children and adults from abusive restraint.

After filibustering by two MPs, Philip Davies and Christopher Chope, last month, the Private Members’ Bill was genuinely under threat. However it passed without objection today (6 July), after which it received a round of applause by MPs present in the Chamber.

Watching the proceedings was the family of Seni Lewis, who died in 2010, aged 23, after being restrained by up to 11 police officers who were called to his hospital. In a moving tribute, Steve Reed MP, whose Private Members Bill it is, said the legislation will be “a lasting and proud legacy for Seni Lewis”.

At earlier stages, Article 39 pressed for parents or others with parental responsibility to be notified when a child patient is restrained. This was extended to all patients and is included in Clause 6 of the Bill. We also wanted the impact of restraint on a child’s development to be included in the Bill’s training requirements: this is contained in Clause 5 (covering all ages).

Other priorities, which we plan to continue to pursue when the Bill enters the Lords, include a prohibition on restraint techniques deliberately designed to inflict pain; patients to be informed of the techniques used in their unit; the recording of the patient’s perspective after each use of force; and patients to be informed of their right to independent advocacy.



Child protection arrangements improve at prison, say inspectors

An inspection report published today (9 May) states the London Borough of Hounslow has improved its child protection scrutiny and action in response to abuse allegations from boys in Feltham prison. This has previously been an area of great concern for Article 39.

The report says inspectors “found examples of improvements to safeguarding practice as a direct result of the oversight provided by the local authority” and children who made abuse allegations were “well supported”.

In the six months prior to the inspection, which was undertaken between December and January 2018, 25 child protection referrals had been made to the local authority from the prison. Most of these related to the use of force and inspectors comment that all of them “were appropriate”. The report does not indicate the outcome of these referrals.

Inspectors report there had been 17 uses of pain-inducing restraint in six months. This is where officers deliberately inflict pain on children – a practice condemned by many bodies including the UN Committee Against Torture.

The segregation unit remained a “grim environment”:

Cells [in the segregation unit] were stark and poorly furnished and many were dirty. Communal areas were dirty and shabby. Conditions in the special accommodation cells (stark, unfurnished cells with no beds, toilets or sinks) were particularly grim. Use of these cells had reduced since the last inspection from 14 to four instances, but we were not assured that use was justified on every occasion…

Staff treated boys well and we saw examples of angry boys being dealt with patiently by calm officers. However, the regime was impoverished and remained punitive. Boys had limited access to telephone calls, showers and exercise which mirrored poor regimes in adult segregation units. Boys were not permitted televisions and had little access to education facilities.

Most boys in other parts of the prison were allowed out of their cells just seven hours a day. They could exercise only 30 minutes every morning. Boys were not always able to have a shower or make a telephone call every day.

Of 25 recommendations relating to children’s safety made at the last inspection, early in 2017, 14 (56%) had been achieved, 9 (36%) had not been achieved and 2 (8%) were partially achieved.

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“Despite some improvements in child protection scrutiny, the reality remains that boys are incarcerated in conditions utterly unsuitable for children. While reading the report, especially the section on Feltham’s segregation unit, the thought once again came into my mind that these graphic descriptions of the harms inflicted on children will appear one day in an official inquiry report. People will look back in shock and shame that we ever treated children this way.” 

Read the full report here.