Protect the rights of vulnerable and frightened children

by Article 39

Protect the rights of vulnerable and frightened children

by Article 39
Article 39
Case Owner
Article 39 is a small, independent charity which fights for the rights of children living in institutions.
on 23rd July 2017
pledged of £15,000 stretch target from 196 pledges
Article 39
Case Owner
Article 39 is a small, independent charity which fights for the rights of children living in institutions.

We want to legally challenge the use of pain and unjustified restraint during children’s frightening journeys to and from secure children’s homes.

Escort custody officers are allowed to use force to make children follow orders. Incredible as it sounds, they have been authorised and trained to deliberately inflict pain on children as a form of restraint. This is in striking contrast to the rules that must be followed in secure children’s homes, which restrict when restraint can be used and prohibit the infliction of pain.

We need to take a case to court to make sure children are properly protected on their journeys to and from secure children’s homes. 

As a small charity, Article 39 does not have the funds to bring this vital case. We need at least £8,000 to cover our application for a costs capping order and to pay for unavoidable court fees and charges. 

Lonely and frightening journeys

Children sent to custody frequently spend many hours in court cells before transfer to a locked institution. This can be a terrifying and lonely wait. 

Only the very youngest and most vulnerable are sent to secure children’s homes (the rest go to prison).

Escort custody officers employed by the private firm GeoAmey take children to secure children’s homes.

Away from their families and heading to a strange place, often hundreds of miles from home, it’s not hard to imagine how frightening these journeys are for children.

Child protection and human rights

Our case seeks to ensure that child protection standards and human rights are upheld for these vulnerable and frightened children. We hope you will lend your support.

Restraint and use of pain

Secure children’s homes follow the same legislation and standards as other children’s homes, but children are locked in their rooms at night and cannot freely leave the building.

Staff working in secure children’s homes are not allowed to inflict pain. Statutory guidance from the Department for Education states:

"Restraint that deliberately inflicts pain cannot be proportionate and should never be used on children in children's homes."

Children's homes' staff can only physically restrain children in order to prevent injury, serious property damage or a child running away.

These rules exist to protect children from mistreatment.

Escort custody officers are authorised to deliberately inflict pain as a form of restraint. They can restrict children’s movement by applying a ‘waist restraint belt’.

We made a freedom of information request for the independent medical advisor’s assessment of this and other restraint techniques. If the belt is used during restraint, the advisor rated the likelihood of children suffering “death or permanent severe disability affecting everyday life” as 2, on a scale of 1-5. 

Not surprisingly, the Home Office has banned the use of the waist restraint belt with pregnant women.

Escort officers are allowed to restrain children for ‘good order and discipline’, even though similar rules were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2008 as a breach of children’s human rights.

Vulnerable children

Official figures show that nearly 1 in 5 (17%) of children sent from criminal courts to secure children’s homes are the subject of a current child protection plan. This means their local council is taking action to protect them from abuse and neglect.

Nearly half of children entering secure children’s homes come with warnings that they have a learning disability or difficulty. The same proportion are officially deemed at risk of suicide or self-harm. Forty per cent are children in care. 

Adam and Gareth

Fourteen year-old Adam Rickwood hanged himself after he was swiped on the nose by a custody officer in a child prison run by Serco. His nose bled for around an hour and officers ignored his pleas to go to hospital for an X-ray. 

Adam left behind a note asking what gave staff the right to hit a child in the nose.

Three years after Adam died, the Government suspended the brutal restraint technique used on him (it was permanently withdrawn the following year). Almost 4½ years after he died, a High Court judge declared: 

“There was no right to hurt such a child in these circumstances.”

Adam was not the only child to die following restraint in 2004. Another child, 15 year-old Gareth Myatt, suffocated as officers in a child prison run by G4S pressed his head down to his knees in a seated position. They ignored his cries that he couldn’t breathe.

New system

Following the deaths of Adam and Gareth, the prison service was contracted to devise a new system of restraint especially for children. This was launched in 2012.

One-third of the restraint techniques in this new system rely on the deliberate infliction of pain. 

Opposition to painful restraint

We don’t want any child to suffer the deliberate infliction of pain during restraint. We are not alone in our condemnation of such treatment. This practice has been criticised by many different bodies, including:

  • the UN Committee Against Torture;
  • the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child;
  • the UN Human Rights Council;
  • Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons; and 
  • the UK's four Children's Commissioners.

Please support us

Allowing GeoAmey officers to inflict pain on vulnerable children entering secure children’s homes, when staff within the homes are banned from treating children this way, cannot be right. 

Please donate whatever you can to help fund our vital child protection and human rights case. Rest assured that all funds raised will support our valuable work to protect children living in institutions.


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You can find us @article_39 on Twitter #NoPainRestraint

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