Protecting children's rights in custody
CRAE strongly welcomes the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke's intention to cut prison numbers and focus on rehabilitation. For many years we have campaigned for the removal of children from penal custody. Prison is no place for a child. The small number of children that must be locked up in order to protect the public should be held in local child-centred facilities with highly skilled staff that can meet their needs and enable rehabilitation.
- The UK locks up more children than most other industrialised countries.
- There have been 34 child deaths in custody since 1990, but not one public inquiry.
- The State has approved painful restraint techniques which injure, hurt, degrade and frighten children.
How we seek to protect the rights of children in custody
- With five European partners, we are running a unique project to end violence against children in custody. Launched in February 2011, this project will support and empower children and young people (under 18 year-olds) with direct experience of custody to campaign for violence-free custody. We want to end all forms of violence in custody, between adults and children and young people, and between children and young people. Our definition of violence is taken from Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which guarantees every child the right to protection from physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent
treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse. See our project website here.
- We brought judicial review proceedings to challenge the refusal of the Ministry of Justice to identify and make contact with former detainees of the country's four privately-run secure training centres (STCs) who were likely to have been unlawfully restrained. Mr Justice Foskett found there to have been widespread unlawful restraint for at least a decade (judgment handed down 11 January 2012): read more here.
- We successfully challenged the Youth Justice Board's refusal to disclose the full Physical Control in Care manual governing the use of force in the country's four privately-run STCs. After a three-year Freedom of Information battle, the manual was finally released in July 2010 and then made publicly available on the Ministry of Justice's website in October 2010. The Observer newspaper exposed the deeply violent methods which have been authorised by Ministers.
- We lobby parliamentarians to pass a children's custody safeguard to make sure
that children are only ever locked up as a very last resort. In October 2008, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights made recommendations to the UK Government on ensuring our country's juvenile justice is compliant with human rights. Thomas Hammarberg said: '...a legal safeguard must be introduced to ensure that custody is only ever
used as a last resort for children. This would give statutory
expression as to the circumstances in which it is appropriate to order
the detention of children (i.e. as to what ‘last resort’ means)'. Read the full memorandum here (opens in new website).
- We supported the legal challenge to new rules which authorised the use of restraint for good order and discipline in privately run child prisons. The Court of Appeal declared these to be unlawful and quashed them in July 2008.
- We regularly communicate with the European Committee for the
Prevention of Torture about the use of deliberately painful
restraint in child custody. The Committee visited the UK in December
2007, and Ministers subsequently suspended the “nose distraction”. In July 2008, the
Government confirmed the “nose distraction” was prohibited permanently. In December 2009, the European Committee for the
Prevention of Torture urged the Government to 'discontinue the
use in juvenile establishments of manual restraint based upon pain compliant
methods'. CRAE is pushing for this recommendation to be acted on.
- Through Freedom of Information requests, and working with parliamentarians, we have gathered evidence of rights violations in child custody and passed this information to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Human Rights Council, as well as to the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights.
- We contributed in a small way to the Howard League's legal challenge
in 2002 on the application of the Children Act 1989 to prisons. Our
report 'Rethinking child imprisonment' was used as evidence in the
- CRAE's national co-ordinator, Carolyne Willow, was a member of the advisory panel for the Carlile Inquiry, established by the Howard League for Penal Reform to investigate the use of restraint, strip-searching and segregation in child custody. The inquiry reported in February 2006. In March 2006, the Guardian newspaper published a comment piece by Carolyne Willow bringing into the public domain the experiences of children she interviewed in secure training centres as part of the inquiry. In June 2007, another piece was published in the Guardian following remarks by the then interim Chair of the YJB Graham Robb criticising the 'hysterical' nature of concerns about the treatment of children in custody and accusing CRAE and others of not engaging in an adult debate.