BBC Panorama Supports Charity Investigation Into Child Abuse Claims At G4S Centre
The support comes several years after the charity began highlighting claims of child abuse.
The oldest penal reform charity in the world, The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to an investigation by the BBC television programme, Panorama into allegations of child abuse at Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Watching this programme made me cry. The deliberate cruelty against children was one of the most upsetting things I have seen in this country. Shocking also was the institutionalised fraud being perpetrated to cover up that abuse.
“The children in Medway must be found other places within the next few days because this institution is rotten to the core. The contract should then be rescinded.
“The government ought to explore whether G4S should repay the taxpayers’ money it has received in the last few years. It has been paid to look after children and it has failed.”
The Howard League has warned for years about the systemic problems in secure training centres. The centres were introduced in the late 1990s alongside the Detention and Training Order, a short prison sentence for children followed by supervision in the community.
Frances Crook said: “Both the secure training centres and the sentences designed to put children in them were flawed from the start. Over the years we have seen enough problems at the secure training centres to confirm that they are failed institutions for a failed sentence.”
In April 2004, 15-year-old Gareth Myatt died from choking on his own vomit while being restrained in Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in Northamptonshire.
Four months later, 14-year-old Adam Rickwood was found hanging in his cell at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in County Durham. An inquest later found that he had been unlawfully restrained and this had contributed to his death.
In 2012, a High Court judge ruled that the unlawful use of restraint had been widespread in privately-run secure training centres for at least a decade.
The Howard League legal team has dealt with numerous concerns raised by or on behalf of young people at Medway dating from at least 2008. The team has worked on cases which have included:
A 15-year-old boy, was taken into his room, where no cameras were, and hit him about the head and a 16-year-old asthmatic boy, who complained that staff squeezed his head and neck, causing him to fall to the floor. In both cases, The Howard League made a safeguarding referral.
Invariably the Howard League’s complaints are not upheld, often because of a lack of CCTV evidence corroborating the child’s version of events. Last night’s Panorama episode included footage of violent incidents involving staff that took place away from the view of CCTV cameras.
The BBC Panorama programme; ‘Teenage Prison Abuse Exposed’, was broadcast on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday 11 January and is available on iplayer.