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The Explanatory Note was regrettably exacerbated by the Youth Justice Boards so-called stakeholder briefing of 27 June this year. That stakeholder briefing deserved the fate that its title impliesto be burned, and quicklybecause it was so misleading in several respects. I gave a number of examples of these to the interim chair of the Youth Justice Board when I had the welcome opportunity of seeing him recently. Given the cohort of young offenders we are discussing, the approach as it appears from the statutory instrument is an extremely bad idea.
Various experts on this subject, I believe without serious or informed demur, share some broad conclusions. I will cite five of these. First, some staff, albeit a tiny minority of a hugely dedicated cohort of professionals, are too ready to use violence. Unfortunately, rogue staff are persistent, devious and difficult to root out. Secondly, being restrained is seen as a mere right of passage by some detainees. I was told this on numerous occasions when conducting the Howard League inquiry. If I may be forgiven a mixture of metaphors, when staff rise to the bait, more violence is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Thirdlyand this is very importanta large number of detainees have suffered physical and sexual abuse already in their young lives. They need to be
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The fifth of what I believe are the shared conclusions is that, whereas in a generally unsuitable youth custody estate such facilities as exist for organised physical activity, if used fully, would lower the general level of violence, physical restraint does the opposite. In that context, I make a plea to the Minister and to his right honourable friend David Hanson to look at the physical estates of secure training centres. They are far too small, have practically no playing fields and hold groups of young men who need outdoor activity but are not receiving it.
I turn for a moment to the statistics, which speak for themselves. The use of restraint in the four privately run secure training centres in England is an unpleasant secret of our overstuffed custody estate. There are only 250 or so children currently housed in the STCs, yet those childrensome as young as 12are subject to an extraordinary level of restraint. The STCs were originally designed for those children who were too young or vulnerable to be in Prison Service-run young offender institutions. Yet in the STCs physical restraintusing what are called distraction techniques, which involve up to 10 staff restraining children and inflicting pain by bending the thumb forwards or down, hitting the nose from underneath and using the knuckles to hit into childrens ribsis used disproportionately and often against the same children several times a day.
Last December, I asked a Parliamentary Question that revealed that in the space of a year physical restraint had been used 3,036 times on a population of around 240. Of those incidents in which restraint was used, 1,245 involved girls, which meant that 41 per cent of all restraint usage was perpetrated on girls, who represent only about one-third of the STC population. Furthermore, the Commission for Racial Equality has highlighted a disproportionate use on young black males, with evidence of discrimination. We should sit up and take notice of those findings.
The STC rules are clear that restraint should be used only when children are attempting to escape custody, injure themselves or others, damage property or incite other children to a violent act. A quick glance at the figures that I have givenand there are many other figures availableimmediately suggests that, if these rules were being adhered to, the number of restraint incidents could be reduced dramatically.
Recently there have been inquests into the death of Gareth Myatt while being restrained and the suicide of 14 year-old Adam Rickwood, who hanged himself with his shoelaces after being restrained by staff at an STC. It became clear in the inquest that restraint was being used routinely to secure compliancein Gareths case because he refused to clean a sandwich toaster and in Adam Rickwoods case because staff
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The inquest into the death of Adam Rickwood concluded in May of this year. He was found hanging in his room in Hassockfield STC at around midnight on 8 April 2004. In the hours preceding his death, he was subjected to restraint by four male officers, including a technique designed to inflict pain known as nose distraction. This was said to have caused Adam to have a nosebleed that lasted for an hour. There was no suggestion that any of the criteria set out in the STC rules that could have justified Adams restraint had been met.
It became clear at the inquest that the circumstances in which Adam had been restrained were commonplace and that children were regularly being restrained as a punishment and to secure compliance outside the rules, which had been in existence for some years. Safeguards put in place to protect vulnerable children were not affording them the protection that they should have under the law, nor had the monitoring of the Youth Justice Board identified and acted on these unlawful practices. The inquest heard that, in the year leading up to Adam Rickwoods death, restraint was used in Hassockfield, which has a capacity of only 42 children, on 972 occasions. Gareth Myatt died while being restrained and in wholly unacceptable circumstances.
Such events must not be repeated and loose rules should not permit such events. I hope, therefore, that the Minister, in a spirit that I know he will follow of trying to assist this House, will be able to provide clear ministerial guidance of the kind that will clarify in a Pepper-v-Hart-usable wayin other words, usable in administrative judicial review proceedingsthat this new statutory instrument is not intended to dilute the rules at all. I hope that the Minister will tell this House loud and clear that the use of physical restraint remains a last resort and that what appears in these rules and the arid Explanatory Note are not to be taken at face value.
I trust that the Minister will tell the House that physical restraint should be available only where it is necessary and when no alternative method is available to prevent escape, injury or serious damage to property by the person restrained or another. Within the past few days, an inquiry was announced into the use of restraint in STCs, although, I fear, without as much clarity as one would have wished. I first discovered it on the Youth Justice Board website in a press release that welcomed the inquiry, but without details. I hope that the Minister will clarify the scope and nature of the inquiry.
I have conducted one independent inquiry into this subject and I suppose that I should be the first to welcome one more inquirybut perhaps only one more. This inquiry should not be seen as a major
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The inquiry should look at medical issues. In my view, serious issues about the medical safety of restraint techniques need to be addressed. Above all, the inquiry should be prepared to consult widely, albeit over a short period, to call for papers and to consider the views of everybody who wishes to make submissions to it. In that, I include consultation with members of the client groupI have done it and it is possiblewhile they sit in custody in these places. They have a lot to offer; some of them are very bright but have a long way to go to put their ability to good use.
Given the level of support that our Howard League report found, it is a disappointment that the report remains largely unacted on after 18 months. However, there are much more important things than my personal disappointment because I chaired that review. Much more important is that we ask for reassurance today that the statutory instrument means rather more, in a positive sense, than it appears to say, and that we ask for a commitment from the Minister that the Government will look in an enlightened way at this most important question of public policy.
Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the rules laid before the House on 13 June be annulled (SI 2007/1709). 25thReport from the Merits Committee.(Lord Carlile of Berriew.)
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I can understand the need for physical restraint when young people are likely to harm themselves or others, or to damage property, or are at risk of absconding. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, amply demonstrated, the number of incidents compared with the number in our secure training centres is deeply worrying: 10 incidents a year for every young person in a security training centre. As we heard in Adam Rickwoods case, there were 20 incidents for every person at Hassockfield.
What strikes me is that these are meant to be secure training centres, and what troubles me is that that very term may be undermined by the extensive use of physical restraint. I am not sure how training and physical restraint go together. While physical restraint may be necessary sometimes, it is quite as likely to breed resentment, bitterness and further violence as
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If it is now impossible to maintain good order and discipline in secure training centres without more frequent use of physical restraint, the last thing we need is more permissive regulation, which is what we are faced with, allowing even more extensive use of physical restraint. What we need instead is a fuller inquiryand I hope it will be the lastinto that aspect of our youth justice system. I add my voice to that of the noble Lord in pleading that this may be the very last inquiry but that it is one that considerably amends the so-called amended regulation.
Baroness Stern: My Lords, it is a sad occasion, and I am sorry that the Minister has to deal with such a distressing matter so soon after taking up his new position, in which I wish him well. I know that his appointment has been welcomed by all those who are active on justice matters in this House.
I would have wished that, in only his second week in the post, he was not required to take on the task of defending the indefensible and supporting the insupportable. Anyone in the House who doubts my use of those words should, I suggest, read the Adjournment debate in another place on 12 July in the name of the Ministers honourable friend Sally Keeble. She said that the events of Gareth Myatts death were harrowing. Noble Lords may agree that reading that debate is itself harrowing. Sally Keeble has been tireless in exposing what she calls the tragedy of the individual death and the scandal of the stonewalling when people tried to get improvements in the regime. She quotes one of the staff who apparently told the inquest:
We have been talking in this House for some time now about the regimes in secure training centres but we have been limited in what we could say by the sub judice rule, because the inquests of the two children who died in those centres were pending. The two inquests have just concluded with key verdicts that are very critical of current arrangements. We must recognise that, had these two children been living in Scotland, they would in all probability be alive today. If they had been placed in a local authority secure childrens home, they would in all probability still be alive today. Since the inquest ended, there has been considerable concern, and even anger, about a system of youth justice that puts vulnerable children into such a regime. There has also been great concern about the Youth Justice Board and the arrangements that it makes.
That concern has been shared by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member; it has raised questions many times about the compatibility of our system of detaining children with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of
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The information provided to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, although skeletal, gives a picture of the sort of children locked up in secure training centres. That can be deduced from the figures showing injuries resulting from self-harmmore than 500. These are the most vulnerable children. In the Adjournment debate, Mark Fisher MP, who was the MP for Gareth Myatt, said of him:
We do not have good information on the vulnerability of these children because a report commissioned by the Youth Justice Board on former abuse of the children held in STCs has been suppressed. I cannot imagine why that was done because what it contains is common knowledge to anyone with a basic grounding in social work or psychology.
When the statutory instrument appeared, the Joint Committee on Human Rights wrote to the Minister questioning the need for it and asking why the Government felt they had to take this step. The Minister replied to the Joint Committee, setting out the arguments. I imagine that the Minister today might well have been advised to deploy some of them. They were: that the Government had to clarify the law; that this is, after all, only what is done in schools; that there is a training manual which is in the public domain, apart from the section that describes the holds, which is suppressed; that it will be used only as a last resort anywayso what is the problem?and that it will not be used simply when there is a refusal to comply with an instruction because Section 9 of the 1994 Act, which is the key provision, specifies that reasonable force may be used to,
I would like to briefly comment on each of those arguments. The Government certainly had to clarify the law. It is astounding that, in the wake of the inquests of two such small vulnerable children, the Government decided to allow a wider use of restraint, rather than tightening it up and bringing it into line
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The suppression of the part of the training manual that describes holds is bizarre and inexplicable. One can only imagine that the Minister foresees children in secure training centres reading the manual and conspiring with each other to thwart what the staff might do to them. I do not find that a credible interpretation.
Finally, the Joint Committee on Human Rights was told that restraint will be used only as a last resort and that it will not be used just to ensure compliance, but only when necessary. Whose where necessary? Will it be the where necessary of the staff member who told the inquest into the death of 14 year-old Adam Rickwoodthis was the staff member who hurt Adam by grabbing his nosethat:
Will it be the where necessary of the pressured staff at Oakhill, which is understaffed, with no trained social workers there at all some of the time and a population of children who keep cutting or injuring themselves? Whose where necessary will it be?
The Minister may tell usI hope that he willthat he is setting up a review. He can do no less after two such tragic deaths and so much information in the public domain that raises questions about the role of the Youth Justice Board, the effectiveness of its supervision and its monitoring of secure training centres, which were all raised in the inquests regarding these two children.
I hope that the Minister will accept all the requirements for such a review, which were set out by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for raising this Prayer and look forward to the Ministers reply.
Lord Warner: My Lords, I am deeply sympathetic to many of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and I greatly respect the commitment that he has shown over much of his working life to the needs and concerns of young people in an institutional setting. I pay tribute to that. However, I take a slightly different view from him on this set of changes to the statutory rules. We need to dissect the problem a little more carefully, but I agree entirely with the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, that we need more transparency in the systems used in order to create better public understanding and improved accountability. I shall say a bit more about that.
I speak on this issue as someone who led the work on setting up the Youth Justice Board, which I chaired between October 1998 and June 2003. As an aside, when I left, the custody rates for children were falling, and I do not disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that that sometimes changes the climate
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I have talked to many children in these facilities and have seen their care close up. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that, if we have a review, it is very important that we hear what they have to say and that we consult them about their day-to-day experiences of the regimes. Only in that way will we improve the regimes in these institutions. However, we must recognise that most young people in secure training centres have deeply disturbing histories and very often were out of control in the settings in which they were living before they entered the STCs. Someperhaps as many as 20 per centhave a long history of violence towards others and, indeed, towards themselves through self-harm.
In my experience, the staff are usually dedicated but, of course, they are not saints. I acknowledge that there are some rogue staff, but the same is true in police custody suites, secure childrens homes and YOIs. Some rogue staff will be found in many of these settings. I do not say that with any satisfaction, but it is the reality that we face. In my experience, most staff are usually dedicated, but they can be provoked by the children. Equally, I acknowledge that a minority of staff provoke the children, just as some prison officers provoke prisoners. In a closed institution, it is not unusual to see that kind of behaviour on occasion. That is why we have staff rules and staff disciplinary procedures, and we have to be robust in applying them. Some of us have had to sack people who abuse the duty of trust that they bear when they take on these jobs.
This does not mean that we do not need this change. I shall not try to defend the process by which we have reached this statutory instrument; I do not know enough about it and I am perfectly prepared to accept the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that it could have been done a lot better. However, I do not accept that we do not need to clarify the legal responsibilities of staff working in these institutions, and that is what this measure does. It does it in response to the inquest into the sad death of Adam Rickwood.
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