Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

However, the question of clarification arises because in the Secure Training Centre Rules 1998, in their original form, Rule 38, which deals with the use of physical constraint, does not include ensuring good order and discipline as one of the purposes for which physical restraint may be used.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, the words appear in the statute; I was quite wrong in saying that I could not think of any such use previously, but it follows two other matters in a list of three. Is it the Minister’s view that, as a matter of law, that third category of good order and discipline is then ejusdem generis—in other words, to be construed as being of the same family as the other two categories, which are, let us face it, rather serious in any event? It is a very important matter.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it appears in the list, as the noble Lord says, and, as far as I know, there is no prioritisation in that list. My understanding is that “good order and discipline” is also to be found in the young offender institution rules and the prison rules. I also understand the phrase is of long standing. I have not come across, nor been advised of, suggestions that a court would not be properly able to interpret it.

Rule 38 of the Secure Training Centre Rules 1998 deals with the use of physical restraint. It does not include ensuring good order and discipline as one of the purposes for which physical restraint may be used. The purposes listed in those rules are to prevent a trainee escaping from custody, injuring himself or others, damaging property or inciting another trainee to injure himself or others or to damage property. Clarification is required on how Rule 38 relates to Section 9 of the 1994 Act. It has clearly been the subject of some confusion. That became apparent at the recent inquest into the tragic death of Adam Rickwood. The coroner highlighted the need urgently to clarify the interrelationship. That is why this statutory instrument has been laid. It adds to the purposes for which physical restraint may be used, set out in Rule 38, that of ensuring good order and discipline. It does the same to Rule 36, which concerns removal from association. Before this change, we consulted the Youth Justice Board and the directors of secure training centres. They were firmly of the view that those powers are essential if centres are to be run safely. I shall come back to that point in a moment.

I clearly understand the concerns raised here and in representations that my department and, I understand, the Youth Justice Board have received that “good order and discipline” is a catch-all expression that will enable custody officers to use physical restraint techniques on any young person who refuses to follow an instruction by a member of staff. While I completely understand why noble Lords are concerned, that is not the case. A threat to good

18 July 2007 : Column 305

order and discipline is more than a simple refusal to follow an instruction from a member of staff. It must involve behaviour which puts the safe running of the wider establishment at risk. I emphasise to the right reverend Prelate that the power relating to good order and discipline is not catch-all. The right reverend Prelate said also, as did my noble friend Lord Warner, that some of the young people who are resident in secure training centres are very troubled and can sometimes be a danger to themselves and others. I do not think that there is any disagreement among noble Lords about that; nor is there any disagreement, I suspect, that it is critical that staff maintain effective control so that everyone in the establishment is kept safe. We have already heard about the duty of care, and I echo those remarks. I fully accept also that, in managing young people’s behaviour in custody, members of staff must seek to influence them through their own example and leadership, and enlist their willing co-operation. That is stated in Rule 31. Equally, however, if good order and discipline are threatened, physical restraint may on occasion be necessary as a last resort.

My noble friend Lord Warner said that many staff do an excellent job. It is right that we acknowledge that. It is important to understand, as I always do, that these are challenging situations in which to work. We must acknowledge also that many of the staff who work in those institutions are incredibly dedicated. Equally, however, none of us must be naive. My noble friend Lord Warner made it clear that there will be rogues, and we have to have safeguards in place to ensure that, as far as is humanly possible, they are contained and removed.

I again make it clear to noble Lords that Section 9 of the 1994 Act states that reasonable force may be used, but only where necessary. That qualification is very important. Equally important is the stipulation in Rule 38 that physical restraint may be used only where no alternative method is available. It is clear in both the Act and the rules, therefore, that physical restraint must be used only as a last resort, when there is no alternative available or other options have been exhausted.

In discussions with me in the past few days, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, suggested that it might be helpful if the actual words “as a last resort” were included in the rules. Ministers have asked for advice on that. The advice that we have received is that the current wording,

carries the same meaning as “as a last resort”.

The code of practice is very important. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, expressed doubts about whether a contractual relationship between a public body and a private sector provider is appropriate and sufficient. He will know that I come from the healthcare field. It is not an unusual phenomenon for there to be a contract between a public sector commissioner and a private sector provider. Provided that the law is clear and understood, that the private sector provider is capable of providing the services that are required, and that the contractual process is

18 July 2007 : Column 306

properly in place and adequate monitoring takes place, there is no reason why that cannot be a suitable arrangement. Clearly, the code of practice that informs the contracting process, developed by the Youth Justice Board, is very important. The code was introduced last year after extensive consultation. It outlines very clearly the Government’s and the Youth Justice Board’s policy on the use of restraint. I make it absolutely clear that an unjustifiable use of force in any environment is an assault, as the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, said. The Government and the Youth Justice Board have never accepted that force may be used simply to gain compliance with staff instructions, and we never will.

Important questions were asked about the monitoring of the centres. I am the first to acknowledge that criticism was made in the inquest about the Youth Justice Board’s monitoring policy. Some noble Lords will know that the Youth Justice Board expressed regret that, for example, PCC was not reviewed before 2004. My understanding is that the board has been very active since then in promoting improvements in behaviour management. Its 2006 code of practice emphasises the strict limits on when restraint may be used.

A number of noble Lords asked what the alternatives are and how they are being developed. A range of other actions is being planned by the Youth Justice Board. They include trial and evaluation of a modified version of a control and restraint system used by the Prison Service, which emphasises de-escalation techniques, a new assessment of compliance with a code of practice, and a review of research literature on behaviour management approaches in different parts of the world. I fully understand the need for us to observe, understand and learn from methods that have been developed in other countries. The Youth Justice Board is also supporting the British Institute of Learning Disabilities to create a tool to assess the safety, effectiveness and social validity of restraint techniques. It is piloting therapeutic crisis intervention methods, which are clearly very important. Early indications from the evaluation of a pilot at Hassockfield secure training centre are that TCI has had a positive effect and that levels of restraint have been reduced. The board is also planning to convene a panel comprised of experts from the relevant medical fields to review the medical safety of PCC techniques and, as was mentioned in our debate, it is piloting restorative justice approaches to managing difficult behaviour.

I acknowledge what the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said about consultation. The Explanatory Note is short. However, I would refer noble Lords also to the Explanatory Memorandum. I pay tribute to the work of the Merits Committee. Following its request to the Government, Explanatory Memoranda are now produced for all statutory instruments, not just affirmative ones. It is fair to say that the Explanatory Memorandum gives more clues to what the statutory instrument is all about.

I know that there is concern about the number of times that distraction techniques are used routinely on young people in secure training centres. The noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, referred to the 3,036

18 July 2007 : Column 307

occasions when physical restraint was used in secure training centres between November 2005 and October 2006. That figure includes both restrictive holds and distraction techniques. The latter were used 169 times from February 2006 to March 2007. We want to see a reduction in their use, and that is why we have put in place the code of practice for behaviour management. Yet the level of restraint also reflects the scale of the challenge posed by some of these vulnerable young people and the problems faced by staff in dealing with them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, asked about the difference in figures between centres and also between secure training centres, secure homes and young offender institutions. Clearly it is important that these differences are monitored to understand what lies behind them. I am happy to write to noble Lords about our analysis of the monitoring, but my understanding is that monitoring shows that the level of restraint rises when particularly challenging children who are seriously disturbed are placed there, wherever the setting. I also understand, and the noble Baroness hinted at this, that secure training centres have not used the same counting rules for restraint. The Youth Justice Board has recently clarified the counting rules. I will write to noble Lords about that.

Noble Lords asked about the training of custody officers. I accept that it is important. There is an initial training programme, there are refresher programmes, and staff required to use physical restraint or to instruct others in its use are trained by accredited instructors, approved by the authority during the initial training programme. In response to the noble Lords, Lord Kingsland and Lord Dholakia, the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, there can be no complacency about the training programmes. We must continually look at and refresh them. I accept the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about the supervision and structure, because training and the work of individual custody officers does not happen within a vacuum. In the end, we must come back to leadership, which is so critical in all these areas.

I understand the comments about specific centres. The inspection reports are of course very detailed in that respect. It is important that we build on them. On the comments about Oakhill made by the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, she will know that a new director has moved into that centre in the last couple of weeks. We will be monitoring the situation there carefully.

We have heard some negative remarks about secure training centres, and that is fair comment; yet there are also some good outcomes, and we must acknowledge that for the sake both of the young people there and of the staff. I met a young man at the centre I visited last week who had been through custody a number of times. As a result of the fantastic education he had been given, he was now going back to his community and a school place had been allocated. It is important that I acknowledge the good work that has been undertaken, particularly the emphasis on education and the record in raising the levels of literacy and numeracy, often from a low base.



18 July 2007 : Column 308

On the power of a Prayer, this has been a wide-ranging and important debate. There are clearly issues much wider than this statutory instrument, relating to restraint and extending beyond secure training centres to young offender institutions and secure children’s homes. I fully accept that we have to look at policy and practice across the board. It was announced in another place last week that we intend to set up a joint review of restraint issues with the Department for Children, Schools and Families. We took this decision after discussions with the Youth Justice Board, and we will use the review to build upon the extensive programme of work that the board has undertaken around both the specific issue of restraint and the wider issue of how best to manage the challenging behaviour of this group of young people.

This review will certainly need to look at the operational efficacy and safety of restraint methods in juvenile secure settings, including physical control in care—the system of restraint used only in secure training centres. It is likely to encompass the medical safety of the individual techniques, and it will also consider how we can ensure that there is cross-departmental knowledge-sharing on use of restraint across a range of secure settings. The details of the review will need to be worked out with other government departments and with the Youth Justice Board. Of course I will ensure that the comments of noble Lords tonight will be fed into that process of working through the detail of the review, and into the review itself.

I confirm that the review will consult widely and that it will have an independent chair. I understand that noble Lords do not wish a review to be seen as simply a way of postponing decisions and responses for a long time. It is our hope that the report can be completed within about six months of the appointment of the independent chair. I hope that noble Lords will accept in good faith that we are keen to get on with this work.

On the specific question that the noble Lord raised about cross-government working and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, that department now has a joint role in relation to policy and funding for youth offending and the Youth Justice Board. How this will be discharged in practice is being worked out at the moment, since we are all new to these particular roles. Given that restraint techniques are used in secure children’s homes as well as secure training centres and young offender institutions, and that there are risks in all three settings, the involvement of the new department and my department in this particularly complex area provides an opportunity for us to look at these issues afresh.

I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is here. He does not seem to be, so I should not really respond to what he said. I understand that we have received the coroner’s letter, and of course any recommendations that the coroner makes will form part of the consideration of the review.

I understand the issues that my noble friend Lord Warner raised about accountability. They are important

18 July 2007 : Column 309

issues, and he is right that the Secretary of State is legally accountable for approving systems of restraint for use in secure training centres. That is probably one of the answers to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, about the arrangements regarding the use of the private sector. I suspect that that was one reason why it was placed back in the original legislation. I understand the issues raised by my noble friend and will ensure that that issue is considered within the scope of the review.

I apologise for speaking perhaps too long tonight, but I thought it important to respond in detail to this extensive and important debate.

Lord Dearing: My Lords, to extend the Minister’s response by one minute, could he kindly respond to my request that the review should look into the whole principle and practice of distraction techniques?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I had hoped that, by saying that the review would look at issues of policy and practice across the board and the operational efficacy and safety of restraint methods for juveniles, I had met the noble Lord’s point.

I have spoken for too long. I hope that noble Lords will accept that there is absolutely no complacency on my department’s part; we think that clarification is necessary. I hope that this statutory instrument will be allowed to follow its course, but the review is very important. I am grateful to noble Lords for the way in which they have approached this debate.

Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, I hope that I will be permitted the opportunity of a short reply to this debate. I should have congratulated the Minister earlier on his new role and I do so very genuinely. I also congratulate Sally Keeble, his honourable friend, on her contribution to the debate in another place.

The Minister should not apologise for one moment for the length of his reply. His reply has dignified this debate by being so full and addressing the concerns of all Members of the House. This has been a detailed, informed, sombre and instructive debate that should be required reading for all those involved in the management of secure training centres. This was the House of Lords at its best, with contributions from the church, the law, psychiatry, the criminal justice system and the youth justice system, as well as experts in social policy, children’s issues, the penal system, senior judicial experience, the voluntary sector and even Scotland.

We have heard the contribution of two right reverend Prelates. I hope that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich will forgive me if I focus for one moment on his noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester, who is retiring shortly. We had a typical contribution from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester tonight, and we shall miss in this House what I hope I shall be forgiven for calling his combination of a Socratic style and Aquinian principle. He can make what he wishes of that.

A number of very important issues have been raised about staffing levels. That was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Warner. On these issues, I would

18 July 2007 : Column 310

never start from the same starting gate as the noble Lord, but I was very grateful for his contribution.

The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, made a very powerful point that must be repeated again and again. We are talking about children—and maybe we can learn something about how children who commit crime are dealt with in Scotland in a rather more constructive way.

We heard brief and eloquent arguments from the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich about keeping the numbers down, the importance of recording events and always presuming that there should be no violence. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, rightly emphasised the importance of the views of His Honour Judge Pollard, which were given today and should heavily inform the debate.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, whose contributions on children’s matters we always regard as important in this House, along with the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, emphasised the need for proper professional qualifications, experience and expertise among those working in secure training centres—which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, emphasised, should be smaller.

As to the Minister’s response, I am very grateful for that. However, I do not resile from my point about the Explanatory Note, because I took the trouble today to look on the Government’s excellent new statute law website. The Explanatory Note appears on the website but not the Explanatory Memorandum. If people are to understand what is meant by the legislation, please can the Government extend the website so that the manager of a secure training centre can see the Explanatory Memorandum as well as the Explanatory Note?

The Minister obviously listened with great care to all that was said during the debate, but he did not quite answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, perhaps because he couched it in a fine Welsh-Latin phrase, ejusdem generis. But it is important that we all realise that good order and discipline is not a phrase with a separate meaning and it is not a “safety valve”, to adopt the language used about another statute. It is simply part of the whole definition, which does not in any way dilute the last-resort principle. I am grateful to the noble Lord for making that point.

The Minister has made considerable and generous concessions to the concern expressed in the debate, which I have expressed to him and his right honourable friend in the past few days. He has placed an emphasis on de-escalation techniques, which are of the essence of this argument. He has provided a clarity of statement, which I can tell him will be pored over and used by all those who deal with legal cases involving violence used in secure training centres. I welcome his confirmation that the scope of the inquiry will be wide, its timescale short and that it will have a fully independent chair. I take it on trust that that inquiry will be appointed very soon indeed.

The Minister knows that I and others will return to this subject assiduously. I was reluctant not to divide the House on this subject but, having considered what

18 July 2007 : Column 311

the Minister said and how he said it, I have concluded that we should take his statement in its full constructive spirit and that in the circumstances—and just—it would be wrong to ask for the opinion of the House on this matter. I know that he is now the Minister responsible for legal aid and I hope that he will show the same constructive spirit when soon he is invited, as he will be, to the Old Bailey Bar Mess, to talk to barristers about recent unilateral changes made by the Government in the legal aid fee system. I hope that it will not be regarded by him merely as an initiation rite but as an opportunity for the sort of constructive dialogue that we have had tonight.

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this important debate. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page