Prisoners: Use of Restraint

– in the House of Lords at 2:59 pm on 8 November 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Neuberger Baroness Neuberger Spokesperson in the Lords, Health 2:59, 8 November 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will review the contracts of those prisons and secure training centres that did not allow access to the Home Office team investigating the use of restraint on teenage prisoners.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, the secure training centre operators have given full co-operation to the panel of experts appointed by the Youth Justice Board to review the restraint techniques used in secure training centres. The panel met at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre on 10 March this year and sought the views of staff and trainees on restraint methods. The Government see no reason to review the contracts.

Photo of Baroness Neuberger Baroness Neuberger Spokesperson in the Lords, Health

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. I take it, therefore, that she regards last week's article in the Guardian as mistaken and wrong. Further, does she think that there is an argument for further investigation of the use of various kinds of restraint techniques, particularly on young people who are in the care of the state in our secure training centres?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I am afraid that I did not have the advantage of reading all of the Guardian article. Let me reassure the noble Baroness, however, that I know of the concern that was expressed, and the matter appears to have been inaccurately reported. For the purposes of clarity, I should say that Rebound did not refuse outright to admit the two people; it asked for a postponement of the visit until the Crown Prosecution Service had reached a decision in the Gareth Myatt case. Those two people had produced the original report and, on the advice of lawyers, that was the position taken. I reassure the House that there is an ongoing, wider review on the use of pain techniques.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

My Lords, should not the Home Office team investigating the use of restraint on teenage prisoners be able to apply a universal system without any variation of the contracts with which various prisons or training centres are required to comply? Should there not be a systematic universal system for dealing with this matter?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, we have clear guidelines on the matter. I reassure noble Lords that the panel of experts was appointed by the Youth Justice Board, and it commissioned the consultants to review the operation in each of the centres. This they did, and they have reported.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the better trained and supervised the prison officers working directly with children in young offender institutions and secure training centres are, the better equipped they are to intervene early and de-escalate situations before they get out of hand and force needs to be used? I welcome the introduction last year of a seven-day training course for prison officers to train other prison officers in the needs of children, but is the Minister aware of the view of the chair of the Youth Justice Board that that is only the most elementary introductory training for prison officers to learn about children's needs? What steps is she taking to improve that training?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl that enhanced training to meet the needs of young people in our youth estate is extremely important. That training is taking place, and we intend to intensify it. Further, it is being deepened throughout the estate.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers), Spokespersons In the Lords, Northern Ireland, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, can the Minister specifically assure the House that training will rigorously cover resuscitation techniques when there are vital signs that the child is in trouble and that the treatment can be halted if necessary?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, that basic training is very much part of the training that takes place. I certainly undertake to check its precise nature and to write to noble Lords if there is greater information about it. However, I reassure noble Lords that the care that needs to be taken with young people in such situations is absolutely understood. One of the reasons for driving forward the review is that we want to make sure that we have the best possible means of keeping young people safe and restraining them in a way that is appropriate.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Deputy Leader, House of Lords, Spokesperson in the Lords, Home Affairs

My Lords, the Minister may not deem it necessary to review the contractual arrangements in light of the use of restraint, but will she ask Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons to examine the excessive use of restraint, particularly in secure training centres, and will she ensure that the Home Office has on no account abrogated its responsibility for the welfare of that individual?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that excessive use of restraint has not taken place. The Home Office is vigorous in its monitoring to make sure that what happens in the juvenile estate is appropriate. I am absolutely confident that the inspectorate will take those issues very seriously in the discharge of its duty.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, will the Minister undertake to see that a senior member of the Home Office is sent to Norway to study the training of those who are in charge of custody of adults and children there and report back fairly soon to the Home Secretary with information about how they do it, which is infinitely better than how we do it and takes a great deal longer?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I cannot make that promise to the noble Lord, but I can certainly tell him that we energetically look at what other partners are doing. I have to say that we ourselves are seen as a resource of some excellence.

Photo of Baroness Sharples Baroness Sharples Conservative

My Lords, have any young people died as a result of these restraints?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, there is one child in particular on whom the double-seated restraint was used. That matter is being investigated. That child certainly died. That restraint method has been removed.