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Secure Training Centres

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 21 June 2007

The recent inquest into the death in 2004 of Adam Rickwood has drawn attention to a lack of clarity as to the powers of custody officers in secure training centres to restrain trainees, where it is necessary to do so. We have been asked by the coroner to rectify the position and clarify the rules.

This clarification is not designed to promote greater use of physical restraint. The Youth Justice Board’s code of practice “Managing Children and Young People’s Behaviour in the Secure Estate” states that restrictive physical interventions must only be used as a last resort, when there is no alternative available or other options have been exhausted. That continues to apply. The Youth Justice Board is working closely with all under-18 custodial establishments, including secure training centres, on all matters relating to the code of practice.

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 provides for the setting up of secure training centres and also for the powers and duties of custody officers at contracted-out centres. Section 9(3) specifies four duties, which include ensuring good order and discipline on the part of trainees. Section 9(4) provides that the powers arising by virtue of those duties shall include power to use reasonable force where necessary.

“Good Order and Discipline” is not defined in the legislation. It is critical for the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and staff in secure settings, and for the stability of secure establishments that appropriate powers are available to manage the behaviour of the troubled and sometimes troublesome young people in their care. The Government take very seriously the wellbeing of children held in secure settings.

We would not anticipate that a refusal to comply with an instruction alone would constitute a breach of good order and discipline. However, where the circumstances of the refusal are such that the refusal to comply with an instruction has wider implications for the safe running of the centre, undermining the general authority of the staff or putting safety or security at risk in some other way, then a genuine concern about good order and discipline may arise.

When it is necessary to resolve a refusal to comply to ensure the safe running of the centre, physical restraint must only be used as a last resort. The YJB code of practice sets out the principles underpinning behaviour management. The strategies in place emphasise:

an expectation of positive behaviour within an environment of mutual respect.

a child-centred culture.

high quality relationships between young people and staff.

Physical restraint would only ever be used when there is no alternative available or other options have been exhausted.

Rule 38 of the Secure Training Centre Rules 1998 specifies the purposes for which physical restraint may be used. It did not originally refer to ensuring good order and discipline: secure training centres have relied on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 as giving the necessary authority for that purpose. However, following the inquest into Adam’s death, the coroner recommended urgent clarification of the interrelationship between the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the Secure Training Centre Rules. We have acted promptly in response to his recommendation.

The Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007 were laid before Parliament on 13 June and come into effect on 6 July. They enable a trainee to be removed from association in the interests of good order and discipline; and permit physical restraint to be used to ensure good order and discipline.