Chris Grayling blasted over plans for 'Victorian-style' corporal punishment on young offenders

 

Senior Reporter

Chris Grayling’s plans to allow force to be used on children at new “secure colleges” for young offenders are illegal and must be changed immediately, an influential parliamentary committee warns today.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights said proposals in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to allow authorised staff to use “reasonable force where necessary to ensure good order and discipline” was a clear breach of international standards.

Earlier this week the Justice Secretary unveiled detailed plans for an £85 million secure young offender unit in Leicestershire, which will hold up to 320 inmates between the ages of 12 and 17. He said it would put “education at the heart of custody” and would move away from the traditional approach of “bars on windows” when it opens in 2017.

But staff would be subject to the same rules laid out in the Bill, prompting Labour to urging ministers to scrap the “Victorian-style” proposals. MP John McDonnell has compared the proposed Leicestershire facility with the notorious private jail HMP Oakwood in Staffordshire, claiming it would become an “Oakwood for children” and lead to riots and assaults.

In a report published today, the cross-party committee said the idea that officials could use physical force on children to keep order in young offender institutions was unacceptable under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

“In our view, it is clear… that it is incompatible with Articles 3 and 8 ECHR for any law, whether primary or secondary legislation, to authorise the use of force on children and young people for the purposes of good order and discipline,” the report said.

An artist's impression of how the £85 million facility will look An artist's impression of how the £85 million facility will look
Committee chair Hywel Francis said the MPs were “disappointed” that the Government did not appear to have examined international standards on the rights of children before publishing its Bill.

“Perhaps as a result there are a number of issues relating to secure colleges in particular that need examination and amendment, including making clear that force cannot be used on children to secure ‘good order and discipline’,” he added.

Last night campaign groups welcomed the committee’s report and called on the Government to redraw the Bill so it did not sanction the use of force on children.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “MPs have recognised that allowing prison officers to restrain children violently, simply if they don’t follow orders, is illegal and will put lives at risk.

“It is symptomatic of the kind of institution that ministers are proposing – not a college with education at its heart, but a giant prison where human rights are infringed and physical violence becomes part of the rules.”

Paola Uccellari, director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, added: “Allowing prison officers to use force to make children behave themselves is dangerous and carries a risk of injury. The Government is putting children’s lives at risk by pushing ahead with its unlawful plans. It must listen to parliamentarians and remove these powers to use force from the Bill.”

In its report, the committee separately welcomed the Government’s clampdown on extreme pornography, including the criminalising of the possession of images depicting rape. It said the measure was “human rights-enhancing” due to the “cultural harm” that such material could do.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The development of a Secure College is a pioneering approach to tackling the reoffending rates of young people, putting education at the heart of custody. This will give them a far better chance of getting out of the criminal justice system, and will mean much better value for money than just continuing to lock up the same young people time and again.

“We are clear that restraint should only be used against young people as a last resort where it is absolutely necessary to do so and where no other form of intervention is possible or appropriate.

“Significant improvements have been made to restraint practice in youth custody in recent years , including the introduction of a new independently assessed system of restraint. It is those improvements that we will build on as we develop our proposals for Secure Colleges.

“We will consider the recommendations made by the committee.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing