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  • Writer's pictureClare Jerrom

Restraint causing pain should not be used in youth estate

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Pain-inducing techniques should not be used as an official form of restraint across the youth secure estate, the government has stated.

The Ministry of Justice has stated that there may be incidents where the risk to the child themselves, other children, members of staff or visitors to the secure setting may be so great that there may be risk to their life or that they might suffer serious physical harm or life changing injury.

In which case, there may be no other viable way for staff to respond to the incident and protect those who are involved than by using pain-inducing techniques.

However, the MoJ policy directive states: "It is never acceptable to deliberately cause pain when a non-painful alternative can safely achieve the same objective."

It adds that every instance where pain-inducing techniques are used must be reported to the Youth Custody Service and a full and thorough review should ensue.

Furthermore, the use of wrist restraints or handcuffs is subject to the same rules as the use of restraint and physical intervention and should only be used as an aid to restraint or as a risk reduction measure where it is the last resort and "reasonable, necessary and proportionate to the outcome".

Carolyne Willow, director at Article 39, said: “Despite a catalogue of serious harms suffered by highly vulnerable children, successive governments have refused to bring an end to this abusive treatment. Had ministers and the prison establishment listened properly to children nearly twenty years ago, and drawn a line in the sand after Adam’s preventable death, this policy change would not have dragged on to 2024. We will continue to closely monitor and hold government and institutions to account, since this is an area of policy replete with broken promises and catastrophic child protection failures.”

Adam took his own life in August 2004, hours after being assaulted by four Serco officers. He left behind a note explaining he had asked officers what gave them the right to hit a child in the nose, and they said it was restraint. A second inquest into Adam’s death, which concluded in January 2011, found that he was unlawfully restrained, and the use of the so-called ‘nose distraction’ was also unlawful.

Sammy Odoi, managing director at Wipers, said: "Causing pain to a child or young person is never acceptable, whether the young person is within the youth justice estate or not."

"Therefore we welcome this policy directive, but add caution, that the reservations of restraint being a last measure resort should not be a cop out for the continued common use of this method and alternatives must be explored and enacted," Sammy concluded.


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