Ofsted calls for body-worn cameras across all youth custody settings

Neil Puffett
Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Staff in all youth custody settings should be made to wear body cameras in a bid to prevent mistreatment of young people, Ofsted and the Prisons Inspectorate have said.

The recommendation features in an advice note issued by the two inspectorates following a visit to Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) on January 11, the same day as a BBC Panorama investigation into alleged abuse and mistreatment of young people by staff at Medway STC in Kent was broadcast.

The Ministry of Justice has also been called on to appoint a commissioner to oversee the management of Medway STC.

"Body-worn cameras should be immediately implemented across all institutions holding children, all staff in regular contact with children should wear them and be expected to record all use of force incidents," the note states.

"All footage should be reviewed by a senior manager.

A six-month trial of body cameras was previously held in 2014 as part of efforts to monitor the use of restraint in Feltham Young Offender Institution in west London and Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in Rugby.

The advice note states that inspectors were satisfied the immediate actions taken by STC senior managers in conjunction with the police, Youth Justice Board and local authority were "adequate and in line with safeguarding procedures".

However, it said that in the medium term there are "significant concerns about the centre".

"It is clear from the BBC footage that a number of staff must have been aware of unacceptable behaviour and the practice of falsifying use of force records but this went unreported to senior managers or external agencies," the report states.

"These risks are further increased by the very high rate of staff turnover, particularly frontline residential staff."

The report adds that managerial oversight failed to protect young people from harm.

"Effective oversight is key to creating a positive culture that prevents poor practice happening and ensuring it is reported when it does," the note adds.

"This is particularly important in institutions that detain children as they are significantly less likely to submit a complaint about their treatment than their adult counterparts."

The report recommends that Justice Secretary Michael Gove should immediately establish a commissioner to provide additional external oversight of the governance of the centre.

It also states that Ofsted and the Prisons Inspectorate will carry out new inspections of all STCs "as soon as possible" in order to provide assurance that the concerns raised at Medway STC are not more widespread.

The inspectorates have also called for an enquiry into the failings at Medway STC and the implications for the wider youth justice system.

As part of action taken by the YJB after the allegations emerged it asked G4S to extend the pilot programme for body worn cameras at Rainsbrook STC to Medway and Oakhill STCs. It has also said it will seek funding to extend CCTV coverage across all three STC sites.

It has also been reported that director of Medway STC Ralph Marchant is stepping down from his post.

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