Youth on remand handcuffed to bed

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The Independent Online
An unconvicted 15-year-old boy has been handcuffed by prison officers to a bed in a children's ward while undergoing treatment to an injured finger. Yesterday the shackles were removed from the youth, who is awaiting trial on charges of theft, and last night the Prison Service launched an inquiry.

It is the latest in a number of cases in which inmates, including a pregnant woman and a man dying of cancer, have been chained to beds. The practice, which is against a new prison policy, has been condemned as inhumane.

The 15-year-old was taken to Leicester Royal Infirmary for treatment on Wednesday five days after being remanded in custody at Glen Parva Young Offenders Institution, Leicestershire. He had a serious infection to a finger. He was placed in a private room, shackled to the side of his bed and guarded by two prison officers. It is not known whether his family knew he was being handcuffed, although they were aware he was in hospital.

A person at the hospital said the sight of the youth handcuffed distressed patients and staff: "It was very upsetting."

Last night the Prison Service said the governor ordered removal of the handcuffs after learning of the case.

In January it was disclosed that a dying cancer patient was chained to his bed in a hospice, despite pleas from his mother and doctors. Geoffrey Thomas, 25, who was awaiting trial for burglary, was only released from shackles three hours before he died of stomach cancer at the hospice near Cardiff.

The row over chaining seriously ill prisoners to beds emerged a year ago when a women with breast cancer from Holloway prison, north London, was found to be shackled during treatment. In 1994 a woman prisoner was forced to remain handcuffed while she gave birth in hospital in Manchester.

Stephen Shaw, director of the Prison Reform Trust, called the latest incident a disgrace. "The Prison Service promised this kind of inhumane treatment would end, but clearly it is still going on."

A Prison Service statement last night said: "A-15-year-old remand prisoner from Glen Parva has been in hospital since Wednesday. Two prison officers remained present in the hospital throughout.

"This morning the governor became aware that the prisoner was being handcuffed to his bed and immediately ordered the restraint to be removed from the furniture. This practice is contrary to clear Prison Service instructions relating to restraints and use of furniture.

"The Prison Service area manager has ordered an investigation into the matter to be conducted by a governor from another prison."

In February Richard Tilt, director of the Prison Service, issued new guidelines on the use of handcuffs on inmates in hospital. Under the rules cuffs must automatically be removed if requested by medical or senior nursing staff for treatment unless the inmate is a high-risk, category- A offender. In future no prisoner should be handcuffed to any item or furniture and only to the guard.

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