JCHR Press Notice 07-08 No. 23


Embargoed until 00.01 Friday 7 March 2008


There is no excuse for the deliberate infliction of pain on children in detention and such techniques should be abolished, says the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The call comes in a Report released today, Friday 7 March 2008 into the use of €œrestraint€ in Secure Training Centres (privately run prisons for children aged 12 to 17).

The methods of restraint currently allowed for use on children include the so-called €œdistraction techniques€ that involve deliberately inflicting pain and a series of holds that can be performed by one, two or three custody officers. Restraint was used on more than 3,000 occasions in STCs in 2006 and on 1,249 occasions in the first half of 2007. On average therefore, restraint is used on ten occasions per child, per year.

Both types of restraint €“ a polite term for the use of force, says the Committee - were called into question after the deaths of two children in custody. 14 year-old Adam Rickwood killed himself after the nose distraction technique (subsequently suspended by the Ministry of Justice) was used on him. Gareth Myatt, a 6 stone 15 year-old boy, died three days into a 12 month Detention and Training Order having been restrained in a €œseated double embrace€ by three officers.

Chair of the Committee, Andrew Dismore MP, said:

€œWe are fully aware that children in Secure Training Centres can present difficult behaviour and we do not underestimate the challenging task of STC staff, but we must remember that trainees are children in the care of the state, which has a duty to ensure that all detained young people and STC staff are protected from abuse or violence. What is in effect state sanctioned infliction of pain against children to ensure €œgood order and discipline€ should not continue. Restraint should only be used to prevent injury to the trainee or others or to prevent escape.€

The full details of the hold techniques are not known. The Government has refused to make the full manual for staff using the techniques public, a situation which the Committee says should be rectified. The Committee is concerned that, judging from those parts of the manual which are publicly available, the focus of the manual is on €œjustifying staff action€ and appears to prioritise staff needs over the needs of detainees.

Chair of the Committee, Andrew Dismore MP, said:

€œWe do not accept that the manual should be secret and what we have seen of it has given us cause for serious concern. It should be made fully available. It must be absolutely clear that inflicting pain on children is never justified and the use of force is an absolute last resort, for use only when all alternatives have been demonstrably exhausted.€

The Committee also says that the recent amendments to the rules for using restraint should be repealed. The amendments were made in the wake of the inquest into the death of Adam Rickwood (following recommendations by the coroner), but the Committee says that far from clarifying the circumstances in which force can be used on a child, the Amendment Rules effectively add a justification for using restraint techniques to maintain €œgood order and discipline€, and entrench the uncertainties the coroner said should be remedied. The former head of policy for the juvenile secure estate at the Youth Justice Board warned that the Amendment Rules would lead to an increase in the use of restraint as €œstaff will no longer need to worry if their restraints can be justified.€

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child requires that restraint should €œnot involve the deliberate infliction of pain as a form of control€. The Joint Committee on Human Rights says that while in evidence the Minster has robustly stated that the Government does not sanction violence against children, this is exactly what current legislation permits. It says that there can be no justification for practices which involve the deliberate infliction of pain, such as the so-called €œdistraction techniques€, and recommends their abolition without delay. /ENDS