Exercising some Restraint

Who’d have thought that until today – when there was a humane judgement against it – that the law allowed the “physical restraint” of youths in custody by means that would surely count as assault in any other context?

Lord Justice Buxton said the methods used had amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment” contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. (from the BBC website)

Examples of actions that are allowed are:

Methods used involved pulling back thumbs, and blows to the ribs and nose.

Why thumbs, ribs and nose? Because broken bones won’t be permanently disabling, I assume. Only excruciatingly painful. Hmm.

Private companies run four STCs in England and Wales for the Department of Justice.
Until June 2007, the rules restricted the use of physical restraint to cases where the approach was necessary for the prevention of escape, damage to property or injury.
The new rules, which were introduced after the deaths in custody of Gareth Myatt, 15, in Northamptonshire and Adam Rickwood, aged 14, in Co Durham allowed restraint when it was thought necessary to ensure good order and discipline. (from the BBC)

So “private companies” run youth prisons. Why does that not inspire confidence?

It looks as if the law used to allow officers to restrain young prisoners in the case of emergency, which seems reasonably fair enough, given the hellish task it must be to contain these damaged children, when containment seems to be all that we are socially capable of achieving.

The new rules – which don’t seem to have had massive publicity…. – talk about “good order and discipline.” Is it just me or does that refer to “anything the officers choose it to mean?”

People who assaulted their own children in such a manner would rightly be prosecuted. School teachers who assaulted their pupils would be sacked.

On first reading this, I assumed that these two teenagers had died as a result of attack by other prisoners. So there was some cock-eyed justification in it at least being intended to save lives. Not so.

Gareth Myatt, from Staffordshire, choked to death while being restrained at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre, near Daventry, Northamptonshire, in 2004.
And an inquest into the death of Adam Rickwood ruled that the teenager hanged himself after being restrained while at the Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in County Durham in 2004. He was the youngest person to die in custody in Britain. (from the BBC)

These kids died as DIRECT RESULT of restraint. Under the old rules.

Following the ruling, Liberal Democrat justice spokesman David Howarth said the full extent of physical restraint being used was “absolutely shocking”, adding that “it’s right that it is put to an end”.
“It’s a shame that it has taken the courts to force the government to stop this barbaric practice. Ministers should have done this a long time ago,” he said. (from the BBC)


The Ministry of Justice said it was “examining the court’s judgement with great care” and added that it would also be “considering an appeal”. (from the BBC)

On reading the guidelines for so-called “ethical restraint” techniques, as used in prisons and care homes, I found this page of golden rules on a site that offers training. Rule 4:

Never place pressure on or around the back, chest, stomach, face, neck, shoulders, major joints or the fingers. (from ECCRUK website)

Hmm, where do the Department of Justice rules allow these private companies to apply pressure, again?

Methods used involved pulling back thumbs, and blows to the ribs and nose.

Maybe I’m mistaking my physiology here but, last time I checked, the ribs were on the back and chest;the nose was dead centre of the face; and I assume thumbs count as fingers. So, the forms of restraint used in youth jails are clearly contrary to these golden rules.

Respect to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for intervening.

‘As the case reveals, the Ministry of Justice has failed young people on two counts. It has allowed staff at secure centres to use unlawful force – in violation of one of our most fundamental rights – and failed to consider the effect of these new rules on young people from ethnic minorities.’
‘Restraint should only be used as a last resort in cases where the young person might do harm to themselves or others – it is never to be used a way of ensuring young people in custody behave. Using pain as a means of creating order and discipline is entirely unacceptable.’ (John Wadham for EHRC, quoted on the EHRC website)

2 thoughts on “Exercising some Restraint

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