Secure Training Centres: Use of Restraint (JCHR Report)

– in the House of Lords at 12:03 pm on 22nd July 2008.

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Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Labour 12:03 pm, 22nd July 2008

rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights on The Use of Restraint in Secure Training Centres (11th Report, HL Paper 65).

Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Labour

My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to initiate a debate on this subject. I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, on which I am privileged to serve. In March this year the committee produced its report The Use of Restraint in Secure Training Centres, and the Government published their response on 17 July, just in time for this debate.

The House will know that secure training centres house young offenders aged between 12 and 17 who are too vulnerable or young to be in young offender institutes run by the Prison Service. These centres are privately run, and there are four in the UK, at Medway, Oakhill, Hassockfield and Rainsbrook. The young people held there often have a violent background, and the use of violence against them needs to be avoided. This is not just a matter of training staff, but of developing strategies in secure training centres to reduce the need for restraint. By any standards, these are the very people most in need of human rights protection. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for legislation and for the Youth Justice Board, which oversees contracts for STCs and places children and young people into institutions.

In July 2007, the new Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules came into force. They were not subject to parliamentary debate at the time. The rules allow staff in STCs to use force to,

"ensure good order and discipline".

Legitimate techniques, called "physical control in care", include restraint holds and something called distraction techniques; that is,

"inflicting pain to thumb, ribs or nose".

In fairness, I should point out that the nose distraction technique has since been suspended.

I understand that, about two years ago, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on behalf of the Howard League for Penal Reform, investigated the use of restraints. As a result, the Government decided to hold their own inquiry but, so far, that has not been published. Could the Minister enlighten the House about when the report and the Government's comments on it might be available?

The key conclusion of the JCHR report is that the effect of current UK law is that the Government have sanctioned violence against children and young people. We say that force used against young people and children in detention is "rarely acceptable" and requires significant justification. The practice runs the risk of breaching international human rights standards under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to that convention, the state needs to ensure that restraint does,

"not involve deliberate infliction of pain as a form of control".

In its report in 2002-03, the JCHR said that,

"the level of physical assault and the degree of physical restraint experienced by children in detention ... represent unacceptable contraventions of [the] UNCRC".

Detention techniques, according to the Youth Justice Board,

"rely on techniques which create pain".

We heard evidence in which a young person, who subsequently died in a secure training centre, wrote a note saying that he had been punched in the nose and was told that that was an example of restraint.

Even more sadly, two young people have died in STCs following restraint. Their inquests took place in the past year. The Government claimed that their reason for introducing the new amendment rules was to respond to the coroner's recommendation regarding the death of one of the young people. In their response, the Government seem to dismiss the committee's concern and the Government's obligations under the UN convention by explaining that the UN committee's comments are,

"not binding on signatory states".

The committee and I believe that the Government should seek to meet their obligations under the UN convention, as it seems clear that there is a lawful sanction of the use of pain against young people in STCs. I welcome the Government's response that they are seeking to,

"reduce the use of physical restraint in STCs".

We on the committee say that the amendment rules are ambiguous because "good order and discipline" is imprecise, broad and inherently subjective. Any confusion caused by the rules and the use of force can have tragic consequences, as we have seen.

The Government insist that "ensuring good order and discipline" is not a catch-all phrase and that force must not be,

"used as a punishment or merely to secure compliance with staff instructions".

However, the committee heard evidence about force being used against boys who, for example, refused to go to bed. They were not causing any harm; they simply said that they were not going to go to bed. To use force against them seems to me and the committee to be excessive in the circumstances.

The Government's response was to argue that the committee or others could not judge whether force was legitimate in such an example,

"without an understanding of all the circumstances in which it was made and of the establishment itself", and that a continual refusal to go to bed might legitimise the decision to use force. My Lords, I beg to differ.

A judicial review case was brought that challenged the new amendment rules. The Government will use the result of that to say that they are right and that the committee has gone too far in its criticisms; I am sure that that will be in the Minister's brief. The court held that the rules are not legally uncertain, nor do they legitimise treatment which is in breach of Articles 3 or 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, it also stated:

"Whether conduct and/or treatment complained of in a future case is contrary to Articles 3 and/or 8 will depend on all the circumstances".

In other words, it may be legitimate to have these rules but the way in which they are given effect to may breach human rights. I could, although I shall not, go into greater detail about the court decision and its consequences.

It is a matter of concern that the Government seem to be suggesting that it can be appropriate to use force in compliance with staff instructions. That goes against the code of practice of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, and I think that the board is right.

The rules were brought forward without any human rights impact assessment, which I suppose is legitimate. The committee called in its report and other reports for the Government to address human rights considerations in Explanatory Notes and Memoranda. The Government provide formal compatibility statements with affirmatives and super affirmatives but they say that to provide analysis for every statutory instrument would be onerous. I accept that analysing every SI might be onerous, but the committee recommends:

"Where secondary legislation raises significant human rights implications, we would expect to see sufficient analysis to facilitate effective parliamentary scrutiny".

I should like the Minister to ensure that officials communicate with committee staff with the aim of providing more human rights information on at least some SIs. I repeat that I am talking about SIs which have significant human rights implications, not the whole generality of subordinate legislation. Given that the Minister will himself or herself have to check that these things are human-rights compliant, it is not very much to ask that these matters should be reported publicly.

I welcome the fact that the Government are meeting our recommendation to place in the Libraries of both Houses every six months detailed statistics about the number of restraint incidents. It was difficult for the committee to access this information during the inquiry; this will enable it to continue scrutinising the issue.

Can the Minister suggest how Parliament can assess whether force is always being used legitimately? Can the detailed statistics promised to Parliament include a short commentary on the circumstances in which restraint was used, without going into too much detail about individual cases?

It is regrettable that the Government will not place in the public domain the manual of constraint techniques. They say that that could be dangerous, but I am not sure that I follow their reasons. Surely having this information in the public domain would allow proper scrutiny and assessment of the physical controls to help to ensure that force did not turn into illegitimate violence.

I believe that the Joint Committee on Human Rights has done a public service in producing the report and highlighting the needs of a small number of extremely vulnerable people. We believe that using violence against people who were subjected to violence before being put into detention can only breed violence. It can hardly lead to them coming out in a more peaceful and less violent frame of mind. The evidence shows that when young people come out of these centres, the likelihood of their reoffending is very high. I look forward to the Minister's response. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights on The Use of Restraint in Secure Training Centres (11th Report, HL Paper 65).—(Lord Dubs.)

Photo of The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds Bishop 12:14 pm, 22nd July 2008

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for that powerful defence of human rights and for expressing how we need to ensure that the regime in secure training centres leads to people coming out of those institutions better equipped to fulfil their life within society. I am also grateful to him for giving this House the opportunity to discuss in detail the Joint Committee's report and the Government's response.

I shall concentrate on two fine lines, which are revealed in the debate between the Joint Committee and the Government. The first fine line revealed is that between restraint and violence. The semantic debate between the committee and the Government on the distinction between force and violence demonstrates how difficult it is to make these distinctions. I hope that the Minister will confirm that any action that can be construed as violence has no place in a secure training centre.

One problem is that restraint can so easily slide into violence. I have considerable admiration for those who undertake the care of challenging children and young people, and I know something of the pressures on them from my visits as a parish priest to such institutions. That makes it all the more crucial that there is clarity that violence is not a part of the sanctions available to them in their work. The quality of care needs to be constantly reinforced by training and by support for front-line staff. I very much welcome the emphasis of both the committee and the Government on the need for training and the improved training now available.

I hope that the Minister will say more about the personal support that is, and must be, provided to staff. They need encouragement to develop a caring relationship with those for whom they are responsible, many of whom have experienced very little care or love in their own lives. They need to do all that they can to ensure that STCs are not themselves bleak and unloving institutions.

In that context, I was particularly pleased to see in the Government's response a reference to restorative justice, whereby in one of the institutions, at least, staff review the incident of restraint along with the young person concerned. This taking of responsibility by the young person is very much to be welcomed, and I hope that the Government will agree to encourage such developments in the other secure training centres so that restorative justice becomes one of the principles by which relationships are developed and love is shown in STCs.

That taking of responsibility by the child or young person is necessary if we are to maintain another fine line, between restraint and punishment. Again the Government are clear that techniques of restraint are not used as punishment, yet I wonder whether it feels like that to the young person concerned. The difficult examples given by the committee, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has referred, sound to me as though the children involved received that treatment as punishment—and undeserved punishment at that. We need to be clear that violence by a child upon child or staff will not be tolerated, but we need to be still more aware that what is perceived as violence by staff upon a child is more dangerous still. This quickly becomes the violence of authority escalating within the secure system and then beyond.

I am currently attending the Lambeth conference of Anglican bishops from all over the world. Indeed, when I asked for consent to be here yesterday and today, the conference asked me to bring its best wishes to all in your Lordships' House. I would not want noble Lords to think that my presence here means that either I or the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln were not invited to Lambeth or that either of us declined to go. Among the events in Canterbury is one organised by the Churches' Network for Non-violence, which campaigns for an end to violence against children throughout the world and to whose work I am delighted to pay tribute.

The conference gives us the chance to reflect on the violence of our world, as we pray alongside bishops from Zimbabwe and the Sudan, for example—as we speak with them, eat with them and share with them. People at the conference speak time and again of how easily violence becomes part of a culture in our contemporary world, becomes endemic in a society.

We are not immune to that danger. We need to affirm that violence needs to be outlawed in all circumstances in our society, not least within the narrow world of the STCs, which we are talking about today. There needs to be a greater determination to do away with those restraint techniques which are or could become violent and to stress the importance—which has hardly been mentioned here, but which I hope the Minister will talk about—of relationships of personal care between staff and children. If the quotations in the committee's report from the training manual about techniques of "hair grab", "strangle against the wall" or "kicks on the floor" are accurate, they are alarming. I hope that the Minister will be able to speak of positive moves towards better relationships in STCs and to an ending of such practices.

Photo of Baroness Falkner of Margravine Baroness Falkner of Margravine Spokesperson in the Lords, Home Affairs 12:21 pm, 22nd July 2008

My Lords, I, too, am enormously grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for giving us, even on this last day of term, the opportunity to turn our attention to this most important report concerning the use of restraint in secure training centres.

I am somewhat puzzled that the Ministry of Justice is not dealing with this issue. The Minister was in the Chamber earlier. I recognise the locus of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, in this matter, given that the Department for Children, Schools and Families is involved in the treatment of young people—I am sure that the noble Lord will give us a most excellent exposé of what the Government are doing—but one would have expected the relevant ministry, the ministry to which we address our scrutiny in our Questions on a regular basis, to deal with the issue. It is the ministry that dealt with the Joint Committee on Human Rights; it is the lead ministry; and it is the one that issues the guidance. It is extraordinary that it has chosen not to be involved. At this stage, we are carrying out parliamentary scrutiny of one sort or another.

We are also aware that the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Children, Schools and Families have agreed a joint review of the situation—the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, mentioned that. I re-emphasise his question. The review was due to report on 4 April this year. As far as we are aware, we have not been shown the findings of the review, nor have we seen the Government's response. Can the Minister tell us when we can expect to see that?

I turn to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I should say that I was a member of the committee when the previous report on deaths in custody was produced—I believe that it was during the 2004-05 Session. We brought up some of the issues that arise in this report. Some years have now passed, but I fear that we do not see much movement.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said that the Government's response came out on Thursday 17 July. The noble Lord may naturally seek to be kinder in his comments to the Minister than I might be from the other side of the Chamber. If it came out on Thursday 17 July, I should say that some of us have been abroad. I came back last night, and the only opportunity that I have had to read the Government's response has been this morning. The way in which the debate is treated is indicative of the importance given to this issue.

The report is eminently sensible. It recognises the difficulties involved on all sides. We accept that the trainees—the young people who are detained—and the staff have to maintain a level of order whereby these young people can be detained for the prescribed period in the best possible way. I think people on all sides accept that there must be an element of pragmatism. The committee, however, seeks to influence the Government's report in several significant ways. That is what it is there for. We on these Benches agree wholeheartedly with its conclusions and its criticisms, and we were disappointed—briefly, as I scanned it—with the Government's response to it.

First, the order to extend the scope of the use of restraint was passed without parliamentary debate. We are told that it is a statutory instrument and so cannot be subject parliamentary debate, and that that is how the system works. That is all very well, but an order that broadens so widely the application of restraint—the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, commented on what it does in practical terms and I will not take up any more time discussing it—passes without debate, and the Government's response is that they do not believe they should answer the question about the provision's compatibility with the Human Rights Act or provide any scope for consultation. I would have expected the Explanatory Notes, as did the committee in its report, to cover whether this new expansion of powers was compatible with the Human Rights Act.

Let me go further. We know that, historically, black and ethnic minority young people are subjected to restraint in larger numbers than their white counterparts. According to the Howard League for Penal Reform, prison monitoring shows that restraint is used disproportionately on young black men. Will the Minister say whether the Ministry of Justice will give us a broader view of whether the expansion of powers is compatible with human rights? The Ministry of Justice also needs to carry out a race impact assessment when members of a particular population within the secure training estate are affected in higher numbers than their white counterparts. We need to know why this is happening.

Still on the theme of scrutiny, will the Minister say whether he will take up the committee's recommendation that every six months the Ministry of Justice should provide Parliament with figures on the use of restraint? If the answer is yes, will he say when we can expect the latest set of figures to be released? The report was published in April, so I would expect that by the time we return after the Summer Recess we might have sight of some figures to know whether the expansion of powers has resulted in a decrease, increase or whatever in the use of restraint for maintaining order.

The general tone of the Government's response to the JCHR's scrutiny is incomprehension that expanding the use of restraint should trouble anyone. Perhaps the absence of a Minister is proof of the priority given to this debate; this is not a high-order issue. The incredulity extends to all sorts of legal contortions that we are presented with, such as why UK ratification of the convention matters, but not the inspector's comments. In other words, the findings of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child are dismissed because its conclusions are not narrowly, legally binding. Another legal contortion is the definition of violence. I pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds who spoke so passionately about these distinctions and how one perceives violence in legal terms, the exact legal definition of the use of force, and so on.

In the Government's eyes, violence is the "unlawful or unjustifiable" use of force, which is the narrowest possible definition that one might imagine. People who speak plain English might not think of that definition when they encounter the word "violence". I looked up "violence" in my college dictionary, which is excessively detailed and academic. The most commonly understood meaning is "swift and intense force". The next most common definition is,

"rough or injurious physical force, action or treatment".

It is only at a third tier of usage where violence is an,

"unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power".

I labour that point because, if you are a young person at the receiving end of violence or force—call it what you will—that causes you intense physical pain and discomfort, not to mention the psychological humiliation that no doubt will follow and be alongside that, it matters little that the state, in its wisdom, defines violence in a different way from how you see it. That is evidenced in the suicide note and the testimony given by Adam Rickwood, who, as we know, tragically took his own life.

Finally, I come to the comments made by the Minister in his testimony to the committee. He referred to:

"The important balance to be struck between competing rights".

We hear that all the time. In the terrorism legislation, we are hearing about the importance of the balance that needs to be struck between security and liberty. I would argue that to imply a balance is to suggest that there is a trade-off in terms of a scale, a measurement, and that there might be a little more or a little less here or there.

On the use of violence by the state against its own young people, to imply a balance is to approach the problem from the wrong philosophical mindset. It is not a balance. The state has a duty to be extremely careful in its dealings with these people. There should be overt, explicit, transparent commitments that the agents of the state will not use violence against children except in highly and extraordinarily well defined circumstances.

There is little left to be said other than that the extension of these powers in this manner, without adequate consultation and scrutiny, is wrong. It was wrong when it was dealt with then. But, furthermore, the way in which it was dealt in response to the Joint Committee of Human Rights report and findings, and the Government's response, was wrong. I shall conclude by quoting the opening paragraph of the conclusions of the committee's report, which says it all. We would wish to see that reflected in the way the Government deals with it. The report states:

"The state has a duty to ensure that detained young people and STC staff are protected from abuse or violence. It is therefore incumbent on the state to take positive steps to ensure that detainees and staff are not injured by other detainees, and conversely that detainees are not injured by staff ... We are dissatisfied by the Minister's explanation of how current policy and practice comply with human rights standards".

I hope that the Minister responding today will not leave us in that state of frustration.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative 12:35 pm, 22nd July 2008

My Lords, I, too, join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for initiating this important debate. If my reply is on the short side, it is only because I share so much of the sentiments articulated by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner. This is a very sensitive and sometimes distressing area of the criminal justice system, but that is all the more reason why we should deal with it in a careful and thoughtful way.

The Joint Committee has produced its report, which can be added to the growing list of reports that have dealt with youth justice. Of course, we have the anchor document of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in his inquiry on behalf of the Howard League and I share the concern of several noble Lords that we await the very long delayed government response to that. That inquiry, and the subsequent rule changes, followed the death of a young man, Gareth Wyatt, in circumstances involving the use of restraint. This important area deserves the full attention all of us in Parliament, because failure can have such tragic consequences.

We have been reminded that secure training centres were set up to accommodate young offenders between the ages of 12 and 17 who were too young or too vulnerable to be in young offender institutions run by the Prison Service. As ever, a fine balance must be struck. It is a sad reality that staff in secure training centres are sometimes confronted with a risk or threat of violence from those whom they are charged to oversee, which always must be borne in mind when criticising the service. They are compelled to maintain a certain standard of behaviour and discipline among a group of offenders, who in many cases are very disturbed characters

On the secure training centres, it is a salutary thought that England and Wales—Scotland is excluded because it does not have secure training centres—is just about the only jurisdiction in Europe which employs restraint by force in this way. The staff in these centres are, by and large, underpaid and, even more seriously, under-trained. It is the view of bodies such as the Howard League that restraint should be used only in exceptional circumstances where all else has failed and that there should be an on-the-spot inquiry after each incident.

One of the more radical suggestions in the report from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, was that the child—I emphasise the word "child", although the Government persist in calling them trainees—should be involved in the inquiry. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds referred to that when he talked about restitution. I also share the concern that the guidelines for the use of restraint are not published. I shall be very interested to hear the Minister's response to that. Obviously, with the volume of occasions on which restraint is customarily used, it is not possible to implement suggestions that there should be an inquiry every time.

The committee was extremely critical of the Government's attitude to the report. It contended that the Minister appeared to distinguish between the use of force or restraint and the application of violence, which has been the subject around the House today. It pointed out that no such distinction features in human rights law and, while the Government do not sanction violence against children, that is exactly what current legislation permits. The committee found that the Government suggested in their response that they are not obliged to comply with the general comments of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, but simply with the convention. That is not satisfactory. It is messy. Strictly speaking that it is true, but it ill behoves this country to be seen to be complying with our obligations so grudgingly. We should be concerned about applying the most rigorous standards, not about getting away with the barest minimum. I hope that the Minister will feel able to expand on that point.

The committee also raised concerns about the use of the term,

"to ensure good order and discipline", in the rules. This term appeared in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, it was absent from the 1998 rules, but has made a reappearance in the 2007 rules. The Joint Committee criticised this phrase as,

"imprecise, over-broad and inherently subjective", and its view will increase confusion rather than clarify what is allowed. Can the Minister explain why that term was not considered appropriate to be included in the 1998 rules? If the Government are so sure that it is now necessary, I hope that they will take careful note of the committee's comments. I shall be interested to hear from the Minister exactly what he proposes to do about that. I want also to ask him whether the circumstances in any of the four training centres since the rules came into force have required the restraint to be used to maintain "good order and discipline". If so, how many times? Is he in a position to tell the House whether these situations could have been properly resolved under the pre-2007 rules?

I end by quoting the further observations of the committee in referring to the phrase "good order and discipline":

"Far from achieving clarity about the circumstances in which physical restraint can be used on a child, as recommended by the coroner in the Rickwood case, instead it brings confusion".

I shall be very interested to hear the Minister's comments.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners) 12:41 pm, 22nd July 2008

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Dubs made a powerful speech in which he drew the House's attention to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the use of restraint in secure training centres. We have also had compelling contributions about non-violence, relationship building and human rights from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. We appreciate the good wishes of the Anglican Bishops deliberating in Canterbury at the present time. We reciprocate those good wishes, as the participants appear to have challenges at least as great as those that this House faces in reaching decisions on delicate matters.

As the noble Viscount rightly said, this is a sensitive and often distressing area of policy. I recognise unreservedly the duty of care that the state owes to those in its custody. A number of key issues are raised in the Joint Committee's report: the principles of human rights; the amendment rules made last year; the mechanisms in place for ensuring that restraint is used lawfully, and their review; and effective staff training. In addressing these issues I also want to emphasise the critical priority, which my department recognises, of promoting good education in all the institutions of the secure estate for children and young people so that they can make the best of their lives after they leave.

I state categorically at the outset that the techniques of restraint should be used strictly as a last resort and never as a punishment. That is a fundamental principle enshrined in the Youth Justice Board's code of practice, Managing Children and Young People's Behaviour in the Secure Estate. However, the behaviour of some young people in custody is frequently challenging and can be dangerous. It is important that staff who work with and care for these young people are able to intervene appropriately in situations where there is a threat to personal safety or where the safety of the establishment is put at risk.

To establish and maintain a safe environment, it is essential that custody officers are able to defuse potentially dangerous situations. This can be done without recourse to physical intervention in most situations, but, alas, not always, and sometimes other means will be simply impossible. In these situations it is imperative that officers have the right to intervene and establish order. Ensuring the physical safety of everyone involved in the custodial system for young people is the overriding responsibility of Parliament, the Government and all the public officers involved.

The issue at the centre of this debate is what actions and what circumstances constitute acceptable intervention and what oversteps the line. The use of force becomes violence if it is used in an inappropriate way, either through being excessive or through being applied in a situation that is not appropriate. It is therefore critical that custody officers have a clear understanding of when and how they should intervene to maintain safety and security. That is why we asked Peter Smallridge and Andrew Wilkinson to conduct an independent review.

Secure training centres must take account of the human rights of the trainees in their care. The requirement to comply with the Human Rights Act 1998 is explicitly mentioned in their contracts and all operators are aware of their obligations under the Act. The Youth Justice Board keeps in close touch with directors about matters relating to human rights and the welfare of young people at the centres. The United Kingdom is committed to meeting its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and pays due attention to the opinions and guidance of the UN committee. However, the committee is not a judicial body and we need to have regard to the wording of the convention as it is ratified. We are confident that our understanding of the convention is correct.

When discussing the use of physical restraint there needs to be a balance between the rights of a young person whose behaviour is dangerous to others, or to the security of the institution, and the rights of those affected by that behaviour. In deciding what is acceptable, we have to have a proper recognition of the rights of all those involved. The Joint Committee's report placed emphasis on the Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007, which added the need to maintain "good order and discipline" as one of the purposes for which the use of restraint is permitted. Good order and discipline is central to the running of secure training centres and of any other establishment where young people are accommodated. The primary legislation that created secure training centres, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, makes ensuring good order and discipline one of the four duties of custody officers. It goes on to specify that to fulfil their duties correctly, custody officers shall have the power to use force "where necessary".

"Good order and discipline" is not an ambiguous term to give custody officers carte blanche to use force. The Government recognise the importance of ensuring that physical restraint is used as sparingly as possible. The code of practice, Managing Children and Young People's Behaviour in the Secure Estate, states that restrictive physical interventions must not be used as a punishment or merely to secure compliance with staff instructions. They must only be used to counter behaviour that puts the safe running of the establishment at risk and then only as a last resort when no alternative is available or other options have been exhausted.

My noble friend cited the reference in the Joint Committee's report to the example of a collective refusal by young people to go to bed at the appointed time when asked to do so, a situation where there appeared to be no immediate threat of violence. I would not wish to make an armchair judgment about the correctness of a particular decision to use physical restraint without an understanding of all the circumstances in which it was made. However, it is important that we are clear about what in principle is appropriate or inappropriate. I say without qualification that a decision to use restraint simply to ensure immediate compliance with an instruction to go to bed would be in breach of the code of practice. Section 10.4 of the code is clear on this point:

"Restrictive physical interventions must not be used as a punishment or merely to secure compliance with staff instructions".

However, if the situation was such that a continuing refusal to go to bed puts the facility at risk because of, for example, the loss of control by staff, then minimum necessary physical intervention might be appropriate under Section 10.5 of the code, which states:

"Any intervention must be in compliance with the relevant rules and regulations for the establishment, and carried out in accordance with methods in which the member of staff has received training".

I turn now to the amendment rules themselves. There was no formal consultation, but before introducing the amendment rules the Government took into consideration the views of all the various interest groups. We consulted key stakeholders, the Youth Justice Board and the operators of secure training centres, and were well informed of the views of other commentators. Furthermore, contrary to what I thought my noble friend said, the amendment rules were fully debated by your Lordships when they were made. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, prayed against the Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007 on 18 July last year, and a long debate ensued during which many of these points were thoroughly debated and addressed by my noble friend Lord Hunt.

The effect of the rule amendment has been made clear to all those concerned. When the rule change was introduced, instructors at the Prison Service's Control and Restraint Centre—now the National Tactical Response Group—informed local instructors of the new legal position, new manuals were issued to all instructors and the change was covered in the training of new staff and refresher training for existing staff. We said at the time of the rule change that we did not expect it to lead to greater use of restraint, and it has not done so. The rules came into effect in July 2007 and since then the trend has been downwards.

The noble Baroness and my noble friend asked about further information on the use of restraint. Statistics collected by the Youth Justice Board on the use of restraint in secure training centres and other secure establishments for young people in custody are regularly provided in response to Questions in this House and in another place. However, the Youth Justice Board intends in future to publish annual statistics on the use of restraint, the first of which will be published later this year.

We are looking at the whole issue in the light of the recommendations of the joint review of restraint, which we are currently considering. My noble friend asked when we will publish that review. We plan to publish it and the Government's response together by the end of October; so it will be freely available to the House to consider in due course.

I turn next to the framework of supervision. We need to ensure that the system of restraint is not abused. There are many mechanisms in place to ensure that the use of restraint is lawful and ethical. On a national level, we have established the Physical Control in Care Management Board to drive forward improvements and safety measures. The board oversees all the processes for ensuring the safety of physical control in care and will address any new issues that arise. On a local level, every secure training centre has a monitor whose duty is to review the running of the centre and to report to the Secretary of State any allegations against custody officers.

All centres have mechanisms to ensure that staff understand when physical control in care may and may not be used. All custody staff must complete a four-day PCC course before qualification. The course covers the legal requirements relating to the use of restraint as well as health and safety considerations. The Youth Justice Board's contract with STC providers requires them to give refresher training to each staff member every 12 months. In addition, all staff are provided with written guidance when they join the centre which sets out the policies and procedures in relation to the use and recording of restraint.

Following any incident of restraint, a report must be prepared within 24 hours and considered by senior managers. Monthly management meetings review all physical control in care incidents and there is a complaints procedure if a young person feels that force has been misapplied or used inappropriately. The Independent Advocacy Service assists young people who wish to make a complaint.

The Youth Justice Board is continually seeking to develop and reinforce these mechanisms to maximise the safety of young people and staff at secure training centres. It is a central tenet of government policy on secure training centres that every trainee who has had to be restrained is able to discuss the incident afterwards. The code of practice to which I referred earlier states:

"After the intervention, the child or young person must have the opportunity to debrief with a suitable member of staff, with the support of an advocate if requested".

However, a written statement by the trainee is not always the best option. The Youth Justice Board is exploring further with the secure training centres how young people's views can be best taken into account.

Physical control in care training includes sessions on determining whether the use of force is necessary and proportionate. If a centre's operating procedures are not clear or appropriate, the Youth Justice Board can amend or reject them before they come into effect. Monitoring arrangements provide for the Youth Justice Board to determine whether a centre has robust mechanisms in place to review its operating procedures and to check that they are being adhered to. Physical control in care is discussed with the young person on arrival at the centre and covered in the induction process. If a young person has to be physically restrained, staff explain why it was necessary and examine strategies to avoid a repetition. The STC's statement of purpose and function—which describes when PCC is used, how it fits in with the STC's wider behaviour management strategy, how incidents are documented and how they are reviewed—is available to parents and carers. Copies can be sent on request or it can be viewed at the centre itself.

The Government are seeking constantly to ensure that the system is as good as it can be by reviewing practice. The Youth Justice Board has convened expert medical panels in 2004-05 and 2007-08 to examine the safety of the restraint techniques approved for use in secure training centres. The use of three techniques, including the nose distraction technique mentioned by my noble friend, has been suspended following recommendations by the panel. Last year we set up an independent joint review of restraint in juvenile secure settings to look at all aspects of restraint in the under-18 secure estate. Its terms of reference included looking at the restraint techniques used, staff training related to restraint, cross-departmental knowledge sharing and the systems for monitoring and recording incidents of restraint, including injuries and warning signs exhibited after restraint. As I said a moment ago, we will respond in full to the report by the end of October.

The Government and the Youth Justice Board have prepared and published an action plan setting out what we have done and are doing in response to the detailed recommendations of the coroners who presided at the inquests into Gareth Myatt's and Adam Rickwood's deaths.

As the noble Viscount rightly said, training is crucial to effective practice in this area. A system is in place for the ongoing training of staff. The contracts for secure training centres stipulate:

"Staff required to use Physical Restraint on a Trainee in custody at the Secure Training Centre or to instruct others in its use must be appropriately trained by accredited instructors approved by the Authority".

They also state:

"Refresher training on the use of Physical Restraint at the Secure Training Centre will be given at regular intervals".

All training issues are now overseen by the Physical Control in Care Management Board. The system of staff training is to be enhanced by regular audits by national instructors to give assurance that training is being delivered correctly. The board will further consider training issues, including the content of the physical control in care manual, in the light of the findings of the joint review of restraint. The manual is revised and updated following review by the expert medical review panel and otherwise as circumstances require. We intend to conduct a full review of the manual having considered the findings of the joint review of restraint, and in doing so we will take account of the Joint Committee's comments. The manual has already been updated to remove references to the two techniques—the double basket hold and the nose distraction technique—that were suspended in response to the concerns of the most recent medical panel.

The noble Viscount and my noble friend asked about publication of the manual. Although part of the manual is already published, the actual techniques are not published as they might be attempted by untrained people and that would put others at risk. We believe that that is a sound judgment on the balance between what should be published in the manual and what should be withheld.

The Joint Committee's report calls for stopping the use of distraction techniques completely. We have suspended, as I say, the nose distraction technique on the advice of the independent medical panel. Distraction techniques are for use in situations where, if they were not available, there would be no means of applying the normal restraint holds and bringing an incident under control. They involve a momentary pain which will distract a person long enough for an officer to intervene safely. The use of distraction techniques is one of the issues considered by the joint review of restraint and, as I say, we will have more to say about it by the end of October.

In conclusion, the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights has highlighted a number of concerns.

Photo of Baroness Falkner of Margravine Baroness Falkner of Margravine Spokesperson in the Lords, Home Affairs

My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I wanted to come back in before he concluded. He has not covered some of the issues that I raised, particularly in relation to why his department rather than the Ministry of Justice is dealing with the debate. Leaving that aside, can he tell us—

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, with the greatest respect—if the noble Baroness would resume her seat—I ask her, if she has a direct question, to ask it. Otherwise, we are running out of time.

Photo of Baroness Falkner of Margravine Baroness Falkner of Margravine Spokesperson in the Lords, Home Affairs

My Lords, I was just coming to my question. In future, when the Government's response to a committee report comes out just one sitting day before the debate itself, would the department be kind enough to draw our attention to it by e-mail or send us an electronic copy?

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

My Lords, I greatly regret that the noble Baroness did not have a chance to consider the government response fully while preparing her remarks. Had I been aware, I would myself have sent it to her earlier. Unfortunately, I cannot undertake that government responses will be sent in every individual case, but it is my own normal practice as a Minister to see that noble Lords are fully aware of relevant government documents. If she feels that there was a lack of courtesy in our provision of information to her in this case, I apologise for that.

In conclusion, the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights has highlighted a number of concerns and made a number of recommendations. Many of those have been taken on board by the Government, and we will have more to say in due course. We must not forget, however, that not only do we have to protect the physical safety of all those who live and work at custodial institutions, but we must protect the safety of the environment at such institutions to ensure that we give all young people in custody the best chance to live normal lives once they come out of the system.

The Government take this responsibility very seriously. We have introduced a number of measures to ensure that inappropriate techniques are not used to restrain young people, that staff have sufficient training to use restraint appropriately and that the system is under constant review. Like noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, I wish to see the custodial system serve those who pass through it as best it can. We believe that all the measures that have been put in place and our ongoing review will help to improve the system of youth justice to the benefit of all those concerned.

Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Labour 1:02 pm, 22nd July 2008

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this serious debate. I hope, taking what the Minister said, that it will have influenced practice and behaviour in these centres, difficult as they are.

I welcome the fact that the Minister said that the YSB will publish annual statistics. I particularly welcome the fact that the Government will publish the report on the matters they have been inquiring into at the end of October. I am pleased that the young people concerned in such incidents can give their views.

I am not entirely happy that only part of the manual is to be published. When one looks at what is on the internet, I think we are being a little overcautious there. Public transparency would be better.

I welcome the fact that the Minister said that violence will be used only as a last resort and only if there is a threat to safety. Above all, I believe this short debate may well have contributed to improving standards in secure training centres. For that, I am grateful to the House and to the Minister.

On Question, Motion agreed to.