A review into restraint techniques that have left almost 570 child prisoners needing medical treatment since 2014 has still not been published by the government – despite it being completed in January.
Charlie Taylor, then-chair of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, carried out the inquiry after the methods used to control young prisoners were deemed illegal under international law by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
He handed over the report to ministers in January, but it has yet to see the light of day.
Even before Taylor finished his investigation, the pain inducing methods – such as wrist holds – had been dubbed “child abuse” by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which demanded the techniques be outlawed in February last year.
Yet despite the wave of criticism, the government is refusing to published the latest findings.
Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck raised the issue with Prisons Minister Lucy Fraser.
Lewell-Buck said: “In January, inspectors found that children were being confined in their cells for up to 23 hours per day and were subject to restraint techniques that cause injury and serious harm to children.
“The Government know that, and yet they continue to permit the use of those techniques. This is state-sanctioned child abuse.
“The Charlie Taylor review was due to report on this last summer. Where is that report?”
Frazer said that Lewell-Buck was “right to point out a number of reports in this area”, adding: “We commissioned Charlie Taylor to conduct a review into the use of pain-inducing techniques, and we will be publishing that report very shortly.”
Concern over the use of force against young prisoners has been on the rise in recent years, and in 2006 an independent inquiry by Lord Carlile recommended that restraint should never be used as a punishment, and the infliction of pain was potentially unlawful.
In 2018, the Equality and Human Rights Commission told the Joint Committee on Human Rights that such techniques may be classed as torture.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales revealed in his 2018/19 report that 49% of children in the system said they had been physically restrained, and his report contained this example from Wetherby and Keppel Young Offenders Institution:
“In one case that we reviewed a boy had been required to move cell because his behaviour had been poor the previous night. Staff entered the cell and the boy said he did not want to move. With little discussion or negotiation, and with no present threat to anyone, the boy was restrained… nobody had prepared the cell he was moving to and as a result he was held under full restraint for several minutes. There was no attempt to de-escalate.”
Carolyne Willow, director of the campaigning charity Article 39 told ICYMI News she was frustrated with “countless Ministerial statements” saying the Taylor review was set to be published but it never materialising.
She added: “Protecting children from psychological and physical violence must always be one of government’s top priorities. But here it is the state authorising and training staff to inflict violence.
“In 2004, a 14 year-old boy, Adam Rickwood, wrote a note questioning why pain-inducing restraint had been used on him. He then hanged himself. The ban on these techniques is very long overdue.”
Anna Edmundson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the NSPCC, added her voice to the chorus of those demanding the pain-inducing techniques are banned.
She said: “It is totally unacceptable that the Ministry of Justice has been sitting on the report from Charlie Taylor for months while these deliberately painful techniques continue to be used.
“The Government needs to publish his findings as a matter of urgency and take action to put a stop to this so children do not suffer further harm in custody.”