Ban urged on the use of pain to restrain young people in custody

THE deliberate use of pain to restrain young people in custody should be banned with immediate effect, a report has recommended.

The report, based on research carried out for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, called for the Youth Justice Board and Ministry of Justice to make the move to fall into line with international standards set out by the United Nations and the European Council.

Children’s Commissioner for England Maggie Atkinson said: “We believe that the application of our recommendations would radically alter young people’s experience of custody.

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“If we want them to be constructive members of society, it is important that practices used to improve their behaviour do not result in a negative outcome for their mental health and emotional well-being.”

The views of 89 young people were canvassed for the study carried out by the charity User Voice, which is led by ex-offenders who work with marginalised groups in the criminal justice system.

One girl described the use of restraint as “disgusting” while a boy said being restrained had made him feel “helpless”.

Dr Atkinson said she was “disheartened and concerned” to read the “grim personal accounts” of some of the young people questioned.

She stressed that children in custody are “some of the most vulnerable in our society” and that being restrained could leave them feeling “traumatised”.

Young people’s experience of restraint differs between institutions, but where used, Dr Atkinson said, it can have a “profound, lasting and negative impact”.

She said in the foreword of the report: “I recognise that members of staff in the secure estate can work with some of the country’s most troubled children.

“We are not ignorant of the fact that on some occasions, restraining a child can prevent them from causing harm to themselves, members of staff and other children and young people.

“However, physical force should only ever be used as a measure of last resort and must be done in the safest possible way. It should be used to de-escalate situations and without causing further harm or trauma. The deliberate use of pain to control children should never be sanctioned.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “Children in custody are some of the most vulnerable young people in society and their safety is our highest priority. Restraint is only ever used by staff as a last resort when a young person’s behaviour puts themselves or others at serious risk.”