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MPs urge curb on restraint techniques in child jails
Alan Travis 7th March 2008
The use of restraint techniques involving deliberate physical pain in privately run child prisons should be abolished without delay, according to a report from MPs and peers published today.
Parliament's joint committee on human rights says that British law does not sanction the use of violence against children unless it is absolutely necessary.
The committee says that restraint is used on an average of 10 occasions per child every year in the secure training centres (STCs) which hold 12- to 17-year-olds. The call for the immediate ban follows the inquests into the deaths of Adam Rickwood, aged 14, and Gareth Myatt, aged 15, in which restraint was an issue.
The committee says the restraint methods currently allowed for use on children include "distraction techniques" which involve inflicting pain and holds that can be used by custody officers. Restraint has been used on more than 3,000 occasions in STCs since 2006.
The MPs and peers also call for the publication in full of the staff manual detailing the use of restraint techniques, claiming it focuses on "justifying staff action" and appears to emphasise staff needs over those of the detainees.
Andrew Dismore, the committee chairman, said: "What is in effect state-sanctioned infliction of pain against children to ensure 'good order and discipline' should not continue. Restraint should only be used to prevent injury to the trainee or others or to prevent escape."
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the use of two of the techniques had been suspended and force was only ever used as a last resort: " Some young people in secure training centres can be very violent and staff need appropriate methods to contain and resolve dangerous situations."
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