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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My Lords, my noble friend Lord Dubs made a powerful speech in which he drew the Houses attention to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the use of restraint in secure training centres.
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As the noble Viscount rightly said, this is a sensitive and often distressing area of policy. I recognise unreservedly the duty of care that the state owes to those in its custody. A number of key issues are raised in the Joint Committees report: the principles of human rights; the amendment rules made last year; the mechanisms in place for ensuring that restraint is used lawfully, and their review; and effective staff training. In addressing these issues I also want to emphasise the critical priority, which my department recognises, of promoting good education in all the institutions of the secure estate for children and young people so that they can make the best of their lives after they leave.
I state categorically at the outset that the techniques of restraint should be used strictly as a last resort and never as a punishment. That is a fundamental principle enshrined in the Youth Justice Boards code of practice, Managing Children and Young Peoples Behaviour in the Secure Estate. However, the behaviour of some young people in custody is frequently challenging and can be dangerous. It is important that staff who work with and care for these young people are able to intervene appropriately in situations where there is a threat to personal safety or where the safety of the establishment is put at risk.
To establish and maintain a safe environment, it is essential that custody officers are able to defuse potentially dangerous situations. This can be done without recourse to physical intervention in most situations, but, alas, not always, and sometimes other means will be simply impossible. In these situations it is imperative that officers have the right to intervene and establish order. Ensuring the physical safety of everyone involved in the custodial system for young people is the overriding responsibility of Parliament, the Government and all the public officers involved.
The issue at the centre of this debate is what actions and what circumstances constitute acceptable intervention and what oversteps the line. The use of force becomes violence if it is used in an inappropriate way, either through being excessive or through being applied in a situation that is not appropriate. It is therefore critical that custody officers have a clear understanding of when and how they should intervene to maintain safety and security. That is why we asked Peter Smallridge and Andrew Wilkinson to conduct an independent review.
Secure training centres must take account of the human rights of the trainees in their care. The requirement to comply with the Human Rights Act 1998 is explicitly mentioned in their contracts and all operators are aware of their obligations under the Act. The Youth Justice Board keeps in close touch with directors about matters relating to human rights and the welfare of
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When discussing the use of physical restraint there needs to be a balance between the rights of a young person whose behaviour is dangerous to others, or to the security of the institution, and the rights of those affected by that behaviour. In deciding what is acceptable, we have to have a proper recognition of the rights of all those involved. The Joint Committees report placed emphasis on the Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007, which added the need to maintain good order and discipline as one of the purposes for which the use of restraint is permitted. Good order and discipline are central to the running of secure training centres and of any other establishment where young people are accommodated. The primary legislation that created secure training centres, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, makes ensuring good order and discipline one of the four duties of custody officers. It goes on to specify that to fulfil their duties correctly, custody officers shall have the power to use force where necessary.
Good order and discipline is not an ambiguous term to give custody officers carte blanche to use force. The Government recognise the importance of ensuring that physical restraint is used as sparingly as possible. The code of practice, Managing Children and Young Peoples Behaviour in the Secure Estate, states that restrictive physical interventions must not be used as a punishment or merely to secure compliance with staff instructions. They must only be used to counter behaviour that puts the safe running of the establishment at risk and then only as a last resort when no alternative is available or other options have been exhausted.
My noble friend cited the reference in the Joint Committees report to the example of a collective refusal by young people to go to bed at the appointed time when asked to do so, a situation where there appeared to be no immediate threat of violence. I would not wish to make an armchair judgment about the correctness of a particular decision to use physical restraint without an understanding of all the circumstances in which it was made. However, it is important that we are clear about what in principle is appropriate or inappropriate. I say without qualification that a decision to use restraint simply to ensure immediate compliance with an instruction to go to bed would be in breach of the code of practice. Section 10.4 of the code is clear on this point:
However, if the situation was such that a continuing refusal to go to bed puts the facility at risk because of, for example, the loss of control by staff, then minimum necessary physical intervention might be appropriate under Section 10.5 of the code, which states:
I turn now to the amendment rules themselves. There was no formal consultation, but before introducing the amendment rules the Government took into consideration the views of all the various interest groups. We consulted key stakeholders, the Youth Justice Board and the operators of secure training centres, and were well informed of the views of other commentators. Furthermore, contrary to what I thought my noble friend said, the amendment rules were fully debated by your Lordships when they were made. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, prayed against the Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007 on 18 July last year, and a long debate ensued during which many of these points were thoroughly debated and addressed by my noble friend Lord Hunt.
The effect of the rule amendment has been made clear to all those concerned. When the rule change was introduced, instructors at the Prison Services Control and Restraint Centrenow the National Tactical Response Groupinformed local instructors of the new legal position, new manuals were issued to all instructors and the change was covered in the training of new staff and refresher training for existing staff. We said at the time of the rule change that we did not expect it to lead to greater use of restraint, and it has not done so. The rules came into effect in July 2007 and since then the trend has been downwards.
The noble Baroness and my noble friend asked about further information on the use of restraint. Statistics collected by the Youth Justice Board on the use of restraint in secure training centres and other secure establishments for young people in custody are regularly provided in response to Questions in this House and in another place. However, the Youth Justice Board intends in future to publish annual statistics on the use of restraint, the first of which will be published later this year.
We are looking at the whole issue in the light of the recommendations of the joint review of restraint, which we are currently considering. My noble friend asked when we will publish that review. We plan to publish it and the Governments response together by the end of October; so it will be freely available to the House to consider in due course.
I turn next to the framework of supervision. We need to ensure that the system of restraint is not abused. There are many mechanisms in place to ensure that the use of restraint is lawful and ethical. On a national level, we have established the Physical Control in Care Management Board to drive forward improvements and safety measures. The board oversees all the processes for ensuring the safety of physical control in care and will address any new issues that arise. On a local level, every secure training centre has a monitor whose duty is to review the running of the centre and to report to the Secretary of State any allegations against custody officers.
All centres have mechanisms to ensure that staff understand when physical control in care may and may not be used. All custody staff must complete a four-day PCC course before qualification. The course covers the legal requirements relating to the use of restraint as well as health and safety considerations. The Youth Justice Boards contract with STC providers
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Following any incident of restraint, a report must be prepared within 24 hours and considered by senior managers. Monthly management meetings review all physical control in care incidents and there is a complaints procedure if a young person feels that force has been misapplied or used inappropriately. The Independent Advocacy Service assists young people who wish to make a complaint.
The Youth Justice Board is continually seeking to develop and reinforce these mechanisms to maximise the safety of young people and staff at secure training centres. It is a central tenet of government policy on secure training centres that every trainee who has had to be restrained is able to discuss the incident afterwards. The code of practice to which I referred earlier states:
However, a written statement by the trainee is not always the best option. The Youth Justice Board is exploring further with the secure training centres how young peoples views can be best taken into account.
Physical control in care training includes sessions on determining whether the use of force is necessary and proportionate. If a centres operating procedures are not clear or appropriate, the Youth Justice Board can amend or reject them before they come into effect. Monitoring arrangements provide for the Youth Justice Board to determine whether a centre has robust mechanisms in place to review its operating procedures and to check that they are being adhered to. Physical control in care is discussed with the young person on arrival at the centre and covered in the induction process. If a young person has to be physically restrained, staff explain why it was necessary and examine strategies to avoid a repetition. The STCs statement of purpose and functionwhich describes when PCC is used, how it fits in with the STCs wider behaviour management strategy, how incidents are documented and how they are reviewedis available to parents and carers. Copies can be sent on request or it can be viewed at the centre itself.
The Government are seeking constantly to ensure that the system is as good as it can be by reviewing practice. The Youth Justice Board has convened expert medical panels in 2004-05 and 2007-08 to examine the safety of the restraint techniques approved for use in secure training centres. The use of three techniques, including the nose distraction technique mentioned by my noble friend, has been suspended following recommendations by the panel. Last year we set up an independent joint review of restraint in juvenile secure settings to look at all aspects of restraint in the under-18 secure estate. Its terms of reference included looking at the restraint techniques used, staff training related to restraint, cross-departmental knowledge sharing and the systems for monitoring and recording incidents of restraint, including injuries and warning signs exhibited after restraint. As I said a moment ago, we will respond in full to the report by the end of October.
The Government and the Youth Justice Board have prepared and published an action plan setting out what we have done and are doing in response to the detailed recommendations of the coroners who presided at the inquests into Gareth Myatts and Adam Rickwoods deaths.
As the noble Viscount rightly said, training is crucial to effective practice in this area. A system is in place for the ongoing training of staff. The contracts for secure training centres stipulate:
Staff required to use Physical Restraint on a Trainee in custody at the Secure Training Centre or to instruct others in its use must be appropriately trained by accredited instructors approved by the Authority.
All training issues are now overseen by the Physical Control in Care Management Board. The system of staff training is to be enhanced by regular audits by national instructors to give assurance that training is being delivered correctly. The board will further consider training issues, including the content of the physical control in care manual, in the light of the findings of the joint review of restraint. The manual is revised and updated following review by the expert medical review panel and otherwise as circumstances require. We intend to conduct a full review of the manual having considered the findings of the joint review of restraint, and in doing so we will take account of the Joint Committees comments. The manual has already been updated to remove references to the two techniquesthe double basket hold and the nose distraction techniquethat were suspended in response to the concerns of the most recent medical panel.
The noble Viscount and my noble friend asked about publication of the manual. Although part of the manual is already published, the actual techniques are not published as they might be attempted by untrained people and that would put others at risk. We believe that that is a sound judgment on the balance between what should be published in the manual and what should be withheld.
The Joint Committees report calls for stopping the use of distraction techniques completely. We have suspended, as I say, the nose distraction technique on the advice of the independent medical panel. Distraction techniques are for use in situations where, if they were not available, there would be no means of applying the normal restraint holds and bringing an incident under control. They involve a momentary pain which will distract a person long enough for an officer to intervene safely. The use of distraction techniques is one of the issues considered by the joint review of restraint and, as I say, we will have more to say about it by the end of October.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I wanted to come back in before he concluded. He has not covered some of the issues that I raised, particularly in relation to why his department rather than the Ministry of Justice is dealing with the debate. Leaving that aside, can he tell us
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, I was just coming to my question. In future, when the Governments response to a committee report comes out just one sitting day before the debate itself, would the department be kind enough to draw our attention to it by e-mail or send us an electronic copy?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I greatly regret that the noble Baroness did not have a chance to consider the government response fully while preparing her remarks. Had I been aware, I would myself have sent it to her earlier. Unfortunately, I cannot undertake that government responses will be sent in every individual case, but it is my own normal practice as a Minister to see that noble Lords are fully aware of relevant government documents. If she feels that there was a lack of courtesy in our provision of information to her in this case, I apologise for that.
In conclusion, the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights has highlighted a number of concerns and made a number of recommendations. Many of those have been taken on board by the Government, and we will have more to say in due course. We must not forget, however, that not only do we have to protect the physical safety of all those who live and work at custodial institutions, but we must protect the safety of the environment at such institutions to ensure that we give all young people in custody the best chance to live normal lives once they come out of the system.
The Government take this responsibility very seriously. We have introduced a number of measures to ensure that inappropriate techniques are not used to restrain young people, that staff have sufficient training to use restraint appropriately and that the system is under constant review. Like noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, I wish to see the custodial system serve those who pass through it as best it can. We believe that all the measures that have been put in place and our ongoing review will help to improve the system of youth justice to the benefit of all those concerned.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this serious debate. I hope, taking what the Minister said, that it will have influenced practice and behaviour in these centres, difficult as they are.
I welcome the fact that the Minister said that the YJB will publish annual statistics. I particularly welcome the fact that the Government will publish the report on the matters they have been inquiring into at the end of October. I am pleased that the young people concerned in such incidents can give their views.
I am not entirely happy that only part of the manual is to be published. When one looks at what is on the internet, I think we are being a little overcautious there. Public transparency would be better.
I welcome the fact that the Minister said that violence will be used only as a last resort and only if there is a threat to safety. Above all, I believe this short debate may well have contributed to improving standards in secure training centres. For that, I am grateful to the House and to the Minister.
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, with the permission of the House, I would now like to repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister.
Let me start by paying tribute to the British service men and women who have served there with distinction since March 2003 and in particular to those who have given their lives in service of their country. I know the whole House will join with me in honouring the memory of the fallen and saluting the courage of all our military and our civilian personnel.
As I set out in my October Statement, our objective is the creation of an independent, prosperous, democratic Iraq that is free of terrorist violence, secure within its borders and a stable presence in the regionsomething that is firmly in Britains interests, and in the interests of the world as a whole.
To achieve this, we have sought with America and our other allies to support the Iraqi Government as they take on greater responsibility for their security and for safeguarding their new democracy, challenging those, whether terrorists, insurgents or militia, who threaten their citizens and undermine the rule of law. We have also sought to foster democratic and accountable government and support national reconciliation, giving all of Iraqs communities a genuine say in the future of their country. And we have worked to help the Iraqis build their economy and give their people an economic stake in the future.
In the last year, this has led us to pursue the strategy of overwatch, moving from combat to the training and mentoring of the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi police, encouraging the development of local government and working with the Iraqis on a Basra economic development strategy.
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