Safeguarding probe ordered into Medway abuse allegations

By Neil Puffett

| 19 February 2016

Claims that unnecessary force was used on young people held at a secure training centre in Kent will be investigated by a local safeguarding children board, it has been announced.

A safeguarding review into allegations of abuse at Medway secure training centre in Kent is set to get under way in April. Picture: G4S

John Drew, the independent chair of Medway Council's local safeguarding children board, told CYP Now that a probe is likely to get under way in April.

Police were alerted to the claims of “unnecessary use of force and the use of improper language” last month as a result of a BBC Panorama investigation into the STC.

Allegations include staff punching a young person in the ribs, another being slapped several times on the head, and staff pressing heavily on the necks of young people.

Drew, a former chief executive of the Youth Justice Board, said he has not decided whether this should be a full serious case a review or an alternative form of review yet.

He said this is because Kent Police and Medway Council are still not in possession of all the evidence in the case as only initial interviews have taken place with the children involved.

In addition to this, he said, authorities require time to consider whether they suffered “serious harm”, as a result of the alleged actions, one of the criteria for a serious case review being ordered.

He also said he wants to ensure that the LSCB’s work is joined up with a number of other initiatives that have been launched in the aftermath of the BBC programme being broadcast, such as Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s establishment of an improvement board.

“However, I can confirm there will be a safeguarding review and its terms of reference and report will be published,” he added.

“I will decide in April both the precise designation of the review and its terms of reference.”

Carolyne Willow, director of charity Article 39, said she is keen for a full serious case review to take place. 

“Holding a serious case review would show that the local safeguarding children board acknowledges the scale of harm suffered by children in this institution, and is determined to learn why it took undercover reporting to identify and expose such appalling mistreatment.

"There would also be transparency, since final reports must be published. Prisons are characterised by secrecy, and this is made worse when they are run by private companies like G4S which are not covered by freedom of information legislation.

"The review must be open and transparent, with a very wide remit that is all about protecting the rights of vulnerable children"

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