Saturday, 12 March 2011
I n 2004 Helena Kennedy wrote in her book “Just Law” p.292;
“Despite the advent of the Youth Justice Board with its supposed ‘child centred’ approach, and the warm words from the Prison Service about child protection, the conditions experienced by thousands of children sent to prison each year should shame us all. Recent reports from Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, are shocking. On page 293 Baroness Kennedy says the Prison Service we are told complies with the ‘principles’ of the Children's Act rather as, according to George Bush, Gantanamo Bay complies with the principles of the Geneva Convention.”
Ever since I had spent a day at the week long inquest of Joseph Scholes 2002 I continued to be concerned about conditions in children’s jails. The coroner had recommended that an inquiry should be held into Joseph's death. No inquiry was held. The practice of restraining children is barbaric. I read more and more damning reports about conditions and treatment.
In January this year the second inquest for Adam Rickwood who died in Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in August 2007 was held in Easington, Co Durham. Adam was fourteen. At his first inquest the coroner said that Adam had taken his own life. His mother struggled for six years and finally this second inquest took place. That jury unanimously condemned the running of Hassockfield as an unlawful regime with serious system failure in relation to the use of physical control in care. The jury criticised the Youth Justice Board. (How on earth could this sort of thing have developed? Secure Training Centres were set up as places of excellence.)
I had written to the Prime Minister in 2007 when I heard that wider powers of restraint were going to be given to so-called “care” officers. My letter was passed to the Ministry of Justice and a reply explained that the Secure Training Rules set up in 1998 had been amended and that anyway, they were not to be used except as a last resort. During the two days I spent at Adam’s second inquest it was crystal clear that these rules were not being followed before or at his death. In July 2007 Gareth Myatt had died at Oakhill while being restrained. It beggars belief that in 2008 Anne Owers Chief Inspector of Prisons called for Oakhill to be closed because of the staggeringly high level of force being used by the staff.
How dare we go on betraying our most vulnerable children? They need more than these overcrowded, under resourced Secure Training Centres with such poorly trained staff.