Youth Justice Board chair to lead review into pain-inducing restraint

By Joe Lepper

| 19 October 2018

The government has appointed Youth Justice Board (YJB) chair Charlie Taylor to lead a review into the use of pain-inducing restraint on young offenders.

Charlie Taylor led a government review of youth justice in 2016. Picture: UK Parliament

Such techniques are already banned in secure children's homes (SCHs), but are allowed in young offender institutions (YOIs) and secure training centres (STCs), as well as when escorting young people to and from youth custody in all three types of provision.

Taylor's appointment has been announced in a letter from youth justice minister Edward Argar to shadow children's minister Emma Lewell-Buck.

"I am pleased to be writing to advise you that Charlie Taylor has agreed to lead this piece of work, states Argar in the letter.

"He will bring excellent knowledge and experience after leading the government's comprehensive review of youth justice in 2016, and spending much of his career in various educational and behavioural management roles

"Officials are working with Charlie to establish the scope and timetable for this review."

The government announced in December last year that it was planning to review the use of pain-inducing restraint on children being escorted to SCHs and STCs.

In June Argar's predecessor Phillip Lee said its scope had been expanded to include a "fuller assessment" of the use of such restraint techniques across the youth secure estate.

Statistics published in January by the YJB and Ministry of Justice show that in 2016/17 there were a total of 4,527 incidents of physical restraint - compared with 4,315 in 2015/16 - a rise of 4.9 per cent. The 2016/17 figure equates to a restraint rate of 32.1 per 100 young people held in custody - the highest figure on record.

Taylor's appointment comes days after children's rights charity Article 39 lodged a judicial review with the High Court against the Ministry of Justice in relation to the use of pain inducing restraint.

The charity is also concerned about the lack of legal protection for children who are restrained for acts such as not following escort officers' orders, including when they are travelling to hospital or to family funerals.

A spokesman for GEOAmey, which has contracts escorting young people to and from custody, said: "GEOAmey welcomes the Taylor review into the use of pain inducing restraints on children. Although required as part of the officer training syllabus, our escort officers have never used such techniques in the sometimes necessary restraint of children during secure escorts."

Article 39 director Carolyne Willow said she is delighted that there is a possibility that pain-inducing restraint of children could be removed from all custodial settings

"Deliberately causing children mental and physical suffering has no professional place in education, health and social care environments, and we have consistently argued that children should have the same protection from violence wherever they are placed."

Willow is critical of the YJB's failure to tackle the issue in recent years but says that under the leadership of Taylor, who joined the YJB in March 2017, the organisation "seems to be changing".

Taylor is also a former head teacher of The Willows, a school for children with complex behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.

"His background in education could prove pivotal during this review since the culture and practice of schools working with children who have similar needs to those who end up in custody is markedly different from prisons," she said.

"It would be fantastic for Taylor's review to finally bring an end to the pain-inducing restraint of children."

In 2004, 14-year-old Adam Rickwood hanged himself in Hassockfield secure training centre in Durham. Before his death he wrote to his solicitor describing how staff had used pain-inducing techniques on him, including jumping on him, putting his arms behind his back and hitting him in the nose.

"It is over 14 years since Adam left behind a note saying he had asked officers what gave them the right to hit a child in the nose, and they said it was restraint," added Willow.

"I have long given up on this being treated with any sense of urgency though, of course, every day that ministers allow officers to deliberately hurt children is a day too long."

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