Revealed: brutal guide to punishing jailed youths
Mark Townsend; The Observer & The Guardian, UK, Sunday 18 July 2010
Carol Pounder Carol Pounder from Burnley, whose 14-year-old son Adam Rickwood was found dead at Hassockfield secure training centre in County Durham in August 2004. Photograph: Christopher Thomond
Shocking details of techniques used to inflict pain deliberately on children in privately run jails have been revealed for the first time in a government document obtained by the Observer.
Some of the restraint and self-defence measures approved by the Ministry of Justice include ramming knuckles into ribs and raking shoes down the shins. Other extraordinary passages in the previously secret manual, Physical Control in Care, authorise staff to:
The disclosure of the prison service manual follows a five-year freedom of information battle. The manual was condemned last night by campaigners as
Published by the HM Prison Service in 2005 and classified as a restricted government document, the manual guides staff on what restraint and self-defence techniques are authorised for use on children as young as 12 in secure training centres. The centres are purpose-built facilities for young offenders up to the age of 17 and run by private firms under government contracts.
Instructions to staff warn that the techniques risk giving children a
The guidance, designed to cope with unruly children, also acknowledges that the measures could cause asphyxia.
One passage, explaining how to administer a head-hold on children, adds that
Carolyne Willow, national co-ordinator of the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), which led the campaign for disclosure following the deaths of two teenage boys in secure training centres, said:
The campaign for publication began following the deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood.
Deborah Coles, co-director of the charity Inquest, which campaigns on the issue of contentious deaths in custody, claimed their deaths emanated from a
Earlier this month the government was prepared to go to a tribunal to fight against the disclosure of the manual, despite the information commissioner ruling that the public interest was so grave the document should be released. The Ministry of Justice backed down and last week released the entire 119-page document. Previously, officials had even refused to give a copy to the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee.
Phillip Noyes, director of strategy and development at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said:
One former manager of a secure children's home with almost 20 years' experience said the revelations were "horrifying" and described the self-defence techniques as "child abuse".
"Nose distraction" techniques - sharp blows to the nose - have already been found by the Court of Appeal to have been routinely and unlawfully used in at least one centre.
The legal director for CRAE, Katy Swaine, said the contents of the manual offered evidence that the treatment of children in secure training centres had contravened human rights laws. She said:
During the 12 months up to March 2009, restraint was used 1,776 times in the UK's four secure training centres.
Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the former children's commissioner for England and emeritus professor of child health at University College London, said:
Malcolm Stevens, a former government policy adviser and director of secure training centres who helped to develop the government's guidance for staff working in secure centres during the 1990s, said he could not understand why pain-inducing techniques were endorsed. He said:
The document also describes the application of steel handcuffs: children are forced to "adopt a kneeling position" while a second staff member "takes control of the head" by grabbing the back of the neck while cupping the chin.
Willow, who has drawn up 30 parliamentary questions to be tabled by MPs this week to ascertain how many times these self-defence techniques have been used in the past five years, said:
The Ministry of Justice said: